Following up on last week’s alert from Charlie Brown on the Pennsylvania Dental Society’s approval of denying routine dental care to disabled children whose parents don’t consent to their kids getting mercury fillings…
This, of course, isn’t the only appearance of such “mercury or else” attitudes. For instance, while pregnant women without insurance in Oklahoma are allowed to get composite fillings, there’s a cap on how many a dentist may place. Once that cap is reached, only amalgams will be reimbursed.
Thus, it seemed to a couple of conscientious dentists – Drs. Craig Hine and C.H. McKee, both wary of placing such a highly toxic substance and potentially harming the health of both mother and fetus – that they could go on placing composites if they accepted reimbursement for amalgam, eating the extra costs for the sake of their patients’ health. And for a while, the state found this acceptable. According to Tulsa’s Channel 8 News ,
“On a two-surface filling we charge $170 and they only pay $73, so I’m writing off $100 to give them a better restoration,” Hine said.
Two dentists literally putting their money where your mouth is, to hold true to their stances against amalgams.
“It’s about the patients, it’s not about the price,” Hine said.
But as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
“I was willing to do the composites and take the loss for the benefit of the patient, but then when they started auditing me and acting like I was doing something wrong I kind of steered cleared of it,” said Hine.
You see, technically, they were bending the rules by billing for an amalgam even though they put in a composite.
“For a while that was deemed acceptable as far as I understood,” said Dr. Jandra Mayer-Ward, a former dental auditor for the state.
“They’re providing a more expensive restoration at a lesser fee, is what they were doing, and they were doing it willingly, cause that was their belief.”
But however well intentioned, the state clamped down on doctors like McKee and Hine.
So, it’s not costing the state extra, and low-income patients – already prone to more dental problems than higher-income patients – benefit from having safer material in their mouths, lowering their risk of developing mercury-related illness. Still, dentists aren’t allowed to provide the care they deem best and safest for their patients.