Independent Dentist-Delta Dental – A Call to Arms

Independent dentist

The Independent Dentist is under siege.

For the independent dentist- Delta is always on the move finding ways to cut its payments, increase profits, and fool the public and dentists into thinking they are the white knight.  The truth is, they are evil incarnate for the independent dentist and are the enemy.  Their business success means your business failure.  If you don’t ‘Get It’ then welcome to a very big wake-up call.

Anyone who has had a science class is familiar with the “put a frog in cold water on the stove” experiment where the frog never knows why he got cooked since the temperature change was so gradual.  Dentists are pretty much the same way when it comes to the gradual loss of their freedom.  They don’t realize the gradual change in temperature until it’s too late.

A rare few “wake-up” and save themselves but most won’t.

One of the smartest things Delta does is when something works really well with keeping their coffers full in one state, they quickly put it into effect throughout the network.

It’s sort of like a dentists version of ‘The Matrix’ where all the dentists in the US are plugged in and whatever comes down the pike in Minnesota, California, or wherever, ultimately effects every Delta network dentist.  Brilliant!

AND…the water gets warmer for all the dentists in the pot….

They are also the smartest in the biz since many other benefit companies simply follow their lead once Delta figures out how to shaft the independent dentist via some new strategy.  Indirectly warming all the other pots too.

The stories abound of all the various shenanigans they’ve pulled throughout the years.  If I was Oprah, I’d do a special story and we’d all cry and hug.

Here’s the catch in many markets.  The water has warmed up so gradually, that most dentist’s cojones are in delta’s financial vise before they could get their wits, wake up and get out of the pot.  Many are past the tipping point in their practice because the majority of patients in the practice are delta patients.

There’s also that small matter of a lot of leaders in the dental societies have been smooth talked and have bought into the reassurances and “we’re harmless” story lines and never sounded the alarm to their members.  In some situations, the state dental society is essentially in bed with Delta.  Talk about a conflict of interest.  BUT….That’s once again a different story.

For most independent dentists, who’s aforementioned cojones are caught, they are also missing one or all of the “3 S’s” needed to safely navigate an exit from the ever increasingly warming pot:

“Smarts, Stomach, or Shekels.”  All 3 are a must to market and sell one’s way out of the pot.

Side note:  Here in Washington State, Delta has a market penetration of 90+% meaning over 90% of dentists have Delta’s “smack” hooked up to the practice’s financial circulatory system.  Mid-way through my practice career, I said “ENOUGH!,” elevated a certain finger, and did what it took to get out (marketing and sales) and to stay out.  I’ve taught others how to do so but that’s another entirely different conversation.  Somewhere, I still have the personal, venomous note written to me by Washington State’s Delta president at that time (Martin Anderson, a pediatric dentist) for withdrawing and for my telling the truth to my patients.   [I’m not sure what’s worse a pediatric dentist working for Delta or a pediatric dentist found to be fondling kids in Op 3.  Can you tell how much I despise these folks and the damage they are doing to our profession?!?]   That was also “pre-internet,” which reminds me to go on the search for this letter and to air it out on the Blog for the whole world to see more of their B.S.

Now, today, I want to make YOU very aware of the fact that more of ALL of the above, like it or not, is coming your way.  You and your colleague’s backs will be pushed a little bit closer to the wall.   For some of you, if you’ve got the “3 S’s,” you’ll join those who stay as an independent dentist.  For most of you, the writing is being written…..the water is getting warmer and you very likely won’t escape in time…..

So, here’s the 411…..

In short order, Delta is rolling out provisions nationally that even if you are “just” on the Delta ‘Lite’ plan, contracted “just” for preventive services, they will begin to penalize ALL dentists who charge above delta’s standard fees for any procedures.

Many dentists were playing a smart little game where they would accept Delta’s preventive fees and then count on the referred delta patients to have other dentistry done which was outside the fee schedule.  In other words, I’ll take the low fee for a prophy and get to make it up on the other fee’s for restorative.  That’s all coming to an end.

Regardless of what contract you have, if you take any form of Delta, you are about to agree to ALL their fee limits.  It’s a winner for them, not so much for you.  Yes, your dental society will scream a little bit but they are tilting at windmills (see previous “sleeping together” sentence).  Delta is a business just like all other businesses and they have one purpose.  Profit and expansion at others expense.  The other being YOU.

Here’s what the smartest will be doing who read this and understand.

You’ll run a “patient by insurance company” report or have your “office manager” run the report in your billing software TODAY.  This isn’t something for the “I’ll get around to it later” list.

If you aren’t past the 50% mark with penetration of Delta patient’s in your practice, then you had better take a hard look at how independent you wish to stay for the rest of your career as an independent dentist.  Your water is a little less hot.  You have more room to make a non-emergency decision.  However, your water will continue to heat up if you ignore the flame.

If you are past 50%, there are still ways out of the water which is rapidly headed towards 100 degree’s Celsius, but it’s more complicated AND you have to have the “3 S’s.”  If you don’t’ have the 3’s, you had better find them.

The McAnally Selling System isn’t specifically about “getting dentists out of Delta” but a fair number of our clients ultimately do that based on the marketing and sales they get from us.  They look at the market place and make a rational decision.

Whether you come to us for our help or to others, the important thing I want to drive home is that this really is about YOUR independence as an independent dentist.

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