One of the many reasons I chose to be a community health dentist was because I thought I would not have to discuss money with my patients. Foolish me. I discuss it all the time. The hard part is that some of my patients weep when they discover the high cost of dentistry.
In light of the recent WDS debacle, quite a few of us are discussing money and what is fair for patients, employers, insurance companies and dentists. It feels like war but it is not. It is business, and it is hard business.
I am hearing that in component meetings some of our members are upset that WSDA has not supported membership by fighting WDS the way we have fought so many difficult battles in the past.
That notion is untrue, unjust, and unfair. WSDA is you, and a whole lot of me, and my fellow board members. Our staff have taken our causes to their hearts and fought right along side of us. Don’t make me remind you of the amazing battle we won last winter over midlevels or the countless other frays both large and small that have kept our profession and our patients safe from poor legislation. WSDA has ALWAYS answered your call and fought literally tooth and nail for you.
Now let’s talk business. You have been told that discussing fees with other dentists with whom you compete may violate anti-trust laws. The concern is that, depending on the circumstances, discussions between competitors about future fees or intentions about fees might support an inference that there is some agreement in restraint of free competition. The parties to such an agreement, however informal, could incur fines and sentences that will harm them personally and professionally. If you gather together to fight this collectively, it violates a whole different set of laws that will harm you both personally and professionally. I imagine that you are all smart enough not to take this risk.
WSDA is in the same position as you, plus we are a professional association and have another layer of laws that we have to respect regarding fair trade. If WSDA throws caution to the wind and breaks these laws, we will surely be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and held up as an example to any other group that is foolishly considering similar action. Do you want to be a part of that? Do you want to foot the bill for this with your dues? Do you want your professional association to be seen by the world in this light? I don’t. As a board member, I bear a fiduciary responsibility to act in your best interest. Trust me. Trust the board you elected. We are not going to be breaking any laws under this board’s thoughtful watch.
Now let’s talk about what we have done for you. We have given you as much information we can — within the confines of the law — to help you make your own decision as to how your practice will handle WDS’s fee decrease. We have made ourselves available to you and your component officers through webinars, blogs, and the WSDA News magazine. We will send WSDA representatives to any meeting you choose to discuss these issues within the law. WSDA did not let you down. WDS did.
Has the ADA let you down? No! About thirty or so of your WSDA members have been fighting to repeal the McCarran Ferguson act for several years. That is the act that allows insurance companies to be exempt from anti-trust laws. I have been to Washington DC and have spoken to our legislators about this. Have you? Last year the United States House of Representatives passed our bill almost unanimously. It got bogged down with everything else in the Senate. So this year we are up on the hill pushing it again. Justice rides a slow horse. It is not easy, but we are determined to see this through.
You all have tough decisions to make regarding WDS. They are your decisions. Fight hard, but fight fair, and remember WSDA always has your back.
-Mary Jennings, DDS
Walla Walla, WA