Dental Health in the US: Ethical and Financial Constraints
The provision of dental health in the U.S has been faced by various challenges affecting dental patients experiencing physical pain and financial constraints. The philosophy of capitalism has spread its roots within the medical care system. This has put the relative responders to dental care in a dilemma that places their ethics and morals to the test, exposing their motives on service deliverance and receivership. The motion picture documentary “Dollars and Dentists” provides expository insights on how the medical care system is flawed, focusing on dental health care. The antagonizing issues are based on socio-economic dynamics resenting ethical malpractices.
Based on the documentary, patients’ responsibility is to finance their dental treatment. Their main financial aid is through medical cover, which in turn is cheaper than paying through cash or credit card. It is disappointing that these patients are not satisfied with their medical covers since most of them are not in a position to pay the relevant premiums. With time, desperation builds up projected by pain and lack of comfort, resulting in them getting involved in bad debts hard to confront (Rosenbaum, 2012). However, patients’ commitment to payment plans does not come in hand with all the information necessary that would help the patients budget their expenses. The loophole in which credit lending organizations exploit patients is by charging high-interest rates. Therefore, they should read and understand payment agreements before signing them. It is devastating to the overcharged and undertreated patients since their desperation to get dental services overwhelms them. They have no option to comply with the terms of payment. The ethical principles in play here are poor informed consent and increased cost of oral health services.
The institution of dental services is perceived to provide quality services. However, the aspect of business orientation keeps dental practitioners on the alert they have to seek earnings. This is because their profession is a source of their livelihoods. However, striking a balance between making money and offering services would require charging and complimentary services. Therefore, they should not accept Medicaid insurance which pays 20 cents on the dollar. According to Rosenbaum (2012), providing payment options to the patients is the dentist’s duty. However, most dental doctors have inclined toward making profits by not accepting patients under Medicaid, claiming that supporting their business would be futile. To control this, dentists do unnecessary work by providing more expensive options when less expensive options exist to reach their targeted profits. The ethics in play here is a conflict with treatment modalities among dentists and patients since doctors tend to provide unnecessary procedures that would harm the patient.
The American Dentist Association (ADA), bound by its legitimate course, represents both dentists and dental therapists acting on behalf of the dental practitioners. However, the documentary reveals a unique yet controversial conflict of interest between dental therapists and dentists. Dental therapists have undergone almost 70 percent of dentist training requirements (Rosenbaum, 2012). They can perform minor surgeries, and they offer lower prices compared to dentists. In this case, dentine patients prefer dental therapists over dentists. This threatens the teeth specialists from thriving businesswise, thus the conflict of interest. In this case, the ADA has a dentist in their best interest and is interested in the patient’s money more than their care. ADA conservatives argue that being a dentist calls for protecting their value (Rosenbaum, 2012). ADA implements their urges by calling for legislation that annuls dental therapists from conducting dental surgeries because patients are underserved from a dental perspective and a medical perspective. Therefore, the ethics related to this scenario is inadequate knowledge and attitude towards ethics among dental practitioners.
Patients have the right to access medical services on the premise they are covered by medical insurance. The initial establishment of insurance covers such as Medicaid and Medicare provided affordable healthcare to citizens targeting the old and those who could not afford expensive treatment. This is because dentists do not accept Medicare plans while treating patients because it is not viable for their business (Rosenbaum, 2012). In cases of extensive treatment, a lot of funding is required. The dentists, in this case, would treat the patient on the basis that their medical cover would cover part of their treatment cost. However, it would be inappropriate for them to decline to take Medicaid from patients because the sick clients are ordinary tax-paying citizens whose taxes fund these healthcare schemes.
The above issue can be fixed by legislating laws that would embrace the promotion of Medicaid into healthcare systems, making it applicable to both the patients’ health and businesswise. Therefore, it would be unethical for dentists to provide these services. It is unethical for taxpayers to support these services since they pave the way for loopholes of exploitation by equity-backed organizations. However, the ethical dilemma is rooted in the low competency among dental professionals.
It is noted in the film that equity-backed organizations provide a perfect sample of a medical business model. They have the capacity and ability to exploit patients in different ways, which are beyond doubt they are no other than how private practice dentists run theirs. They provide dental services, something which people are desperate to beat their profit margins in every fiscal period (Rosenbaum, 2012). To maximize these organizations’ profits, dentists have to work in terms of quantity rather than quality control since bonuses reward them. Therefore, at the expense of patients, these organizations benefit from the medical treatment by offering poor dentine treatment with spiked prices. However, they should be concerned about providing patients high-interest cards since it is selfish to benefit the credit-providing company, which is a bad business practice. With confidence, these organizations take advantage of patients when there is no statute regulating dental corporations.
Rosenbaum J. (Producer) (2012). Frontline Season 12 Episode 18. Dollars and Dentists [documentary].