30 July 2008

Dental Math

Here's one of those strange and basically hilarious stories for you:

I got a bill from my dentist that included a fluoride application that didn't happen. So, I was a good customer, contacted the billing company about the discrepancy. They contacted the dentist, who left a message. Today, I called the dentist as requested. Here's what she told me: Whether the fluoride application happened or not, I have to pay with it because this is the system they use to make sure patients pay for the 40 minutes they need to be in the chair for the dental hygienist.

Let me break that down, because it's so funny. My bill is for (prices in Euros):

19.10 exam
45.10 cleaning
25.10 fluoride application

Basically, she told me I have to pay the whole thing because that's how I pay for my 40 minutes of time in the chair. I told her it didn't make any sense to me - like paying for an appetizer I didn't eat or even receive just because I was at the restaurant. Actually, I used the example of a mechanic charging me for oil that was never put in my car and she said that it's happened to her and she just pays for it. Clearly, we're not on the same wavelength.

While I was writing this lovely story for you, she called back. Nice lady, actually. She explained that their solution would be to give the 25.10 for the fluoride a different code. Then it would all be fine. We chatted for a while, because I wanted to be sure I understood this clearly. There is no way to substantiate my claim that there was no fluoride application, so instead of worrying about that, they'll just change the code, keep the charge, and send me a new bill. All I could do was laugh. They still want me to pay the full amount, but since they're going to give it a different name, everything should be fine. Go back to the appetizer analogy. Imagine the waitress apologizes for the imaginary appetizer and fixes your bill by doubling the price of your main course. That's essentially their solution.

This is supposed to make sense to someone, but it doesn't make any sense to me. It's likely to all be paid for by the insurance company, but this kind of logic is illogical! I'd love to hear what you think of this one. In the meantime, I'm going to see about composing an email about it tonight to see if I can get an explanation in writing. If nothing else, it will be great for the joke book I should start writing!


  1. i've heard almost the same story involving a scan at the hospital that wasn't actually taken but billed for, and have come across this kind of logic before in NL. it seems mainly based on the principle that since it's not your 'own' money it really doesn't matter. the people concerned don't seem to realize that this drives up insurance costs...most frustrating is how impossible it is to get the other party to see your point at least. maybe the result of being too entrenched in The System?

  2. I believe telling the story is hitting the nail on the head. The Health system in NL is being brought down by stupid politicians and greedy pratitioners.

  3. Sorry for my Dutch: it should read practitioners :-)

  4. I have to agree with y'all. The attitude seems to be, "you're not paying for it, so why all the fuss?" Doesn't work so well now that they've introduced deductibles in health insurance. I hope they start getting more phone calls!


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