It is a growing trend these days for the health funds to refer their clients to so called preferred providers. What kind of arrangement is this and who are these dentists? Why are they “preferred”?
Basically it works like this: Health fund signs a contract with a practitioner, promising to channel their clients to this particular dentist in preference to any other dentist in the area, under the condition that the dentist agrees to charge significantly lower prices than he or she normally would…
Cheap advertising for the dentist, low prices for the customer. Sounds like a sweet deal at a first glance.
And it may very well be if low prices is THE ONLY single consideration that drives your choice of a dental practitioner.
Unfortunately, even though it sounds like the “preferred” dentist is somehow superior to any other “non-preferred” dentist (at least this is what is implied when the health fund refers a client to them), the ONLY check that is conducted by the health fund is the pricing.
There is no consideration for the dentist’s skills, experience, quality and training of supporting staff, infection control standards, continuous education standards, adequacy of equipment etc..
The single concern of the health fund in this situation is to keep their rebates to their clients low… by enticing the dentists to lower their prices. Consider who is the real winner in this game?
How the prices are being kept low no one seems to want to know.
It is simple however: if the incoming money has to be less, either more patients have to be seen per hour or the outgoings must be cut.
How can this be achieved in dentistry?
- the dentist has to push more items in a given time period than he otherwise would
- the dentist must either employ fewer staff or less qualified staff
- the materials cannot be the latest and the best (they cost too much)
- the laboratory has to change (dental technicians in Australia are not cheap)
- the equipment may not be maintained at the same standard
- the dentist may not be able to afford high quality continuing education..
Some dentists may be in such need of constant new patient flow it may be beneficial for them to enter such agreements. Others however find it unacceptable for the health funds to dictate their pricing structure. Sooooo….
Before leaving your trusted dentist for “preferred providers” recommended by your health fund consider very carefully…
Dr. Maria Avis