Pet Peeve #10: Now I Know Why Everyone Hates HMOs

It was 2003, and my husband was starting his new full-time teaching position.  The HR department had sent a huge packet of information to go through about health plans, dental plans, life insurance, and retirement information.  As I perused the dental options, I noticed that the Dental HMO paid out a little bit more for the same cost as the Dental PPO, and there was a participating provider fairly close by.  I was a little unsure because I had always heard people grumble about HMO’s, but it seemed like the smarter way to go.

Fast forward a few years.  We moved to a different township.  Now the dentist office is 30 minutes away instead of 10.  Furthermore, in the few trips we’ve made to the dentist I was a little less than impressed.  Going to the dentist felt like taking a trip back into the sixties..from the waiting room, to the type-writer one of the receptionists was using, to the exam rooms with the dirty linoleum.  The people weren’t rude, but they weren’t particularly friendly, either.  Unlike any office I had been to before, their procedure is to have the hygienist do the entire cleaning and then the dentist comes in for two minutes to look at your x-rays and to check your teeth for cavities.  I don’t think the dentist has said more than two sentences to me in the entire time I’ve been there:  “Hi, I’m Dr. ——.  I don’t see any cavities.”

So, about a year ago I decide to switch to someplace closer to home.  I get a current list of participating providers, and see who’s available.  I call the new office to confirm that they accept our insurance and make sure they are accepting new patients.  They tell me they will gladly take us in once they have certain information from the insurance company.  So I call the insurance company to switch our primary dental provider, and they say they can’t until the new dental office calls them and gives them certain information.  So I call the new dental office back and they say they aren’t calling because they have called our insurance company 15 times and given them the requested information.  Well, come to find out that while the new dental office would happily accept us and our insurance, the insurance company has decided that office already has too many HMO patients and won’t allow it.  So, we’re stuck.

The only other provider anywhere close to us besides Office 1 and Office 2 is just as far away as Office 1.  I figure that I can just suck it up.  After all, it’s only 2 visits a year.  However, it starts becoming increasingly harder to schedule our visits.  We only have one vehicle so we have to work around my husband’s work schedule.  Plus, I need someone there to help me watch the kids while I get my check-up and cleaning.  Come to find out that they will only schedule cleanings on Mondays and Tuesdays, the two days when my husband usually has meetings.   They are closed every other Wednesday and every Thursday.   They also close early on Fridays and they shut down the office whenever the last patient of the day leaves, even if its two hours before their supposed closing time.  This has really become annoying since my husband has needed some major dental work done, and we’re having an impossible time getting it all scheduled.

I think this office is basically in semi-retirement, and we’re stuck at it because of our stupid HMO.  If I could turn back time, I would have picked the PPO.  But all is not lost.  We’ll get through the next few months, and when open enrollment comes up at the end of the year, we are so switching to the PPO and switching to a newer, nicer dental office closer to home.  In the meantime, I’ll just try to be thankful that we have dental insurance at all.

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2 Comments on “Pet Peeve #10: Now I Know Why Everyone Hates HMOs”

  1. Kelly Says:

    Unlike any office I had been to before, their procedure is to have the hygienist do the entire cleaning and then the dentist comes in for two minutes to look at your x-rays and to check your teeth for cavities.

    This is how the last 4 offices I’ve been in work. I think it’s the new norm. You get the dentist for extractions, root canals, fillings, etc.

    • barboo77 Says:

      Our dentist doesn’t even do root canals; he sends you to an endodontist. He probably doesn’t even do extractions. None of us have had any cavities yet, so I don’t know if he actually does those either or can’t be bothered. Talk about money for nothing.


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