The Saga of Erik the Red, written in the 13th century, depicts a story of Old Norse Vikings exploring the land we now call North America. History tells us that Vikings were one of the fiercest cultures to exist with their presence creating a lasting impact between the 8th and 11th centuries.1 With celebrated stories of Odin, Freda, Thor, and many other characters that entertain us through Marvel and Disney productions, Vikings have a place in recent history that the world both loves and respects.
When Viking explorers made their way to the Americas around 1000 AD, they were soon met by a community of local inhabitants, the Native Americans. The Viking conquerors, dressed for battle with their iron armor, shields, steel spears and axes, were driven out of the entire hemisphere by Native Americans wielding weaponry made of wood, stone, and animal parts. Vikings originally referred to Native Americans as “Skraeling” or “weakling,” not knowing the resilient and rich battle and tribal culture of the American Indians. As documented in The Saga of Erik the Red, the Vikings “realized that even though this was good land, their lives here would always be dominated by battle and fear.”1 That, my friends, I believe to be the highest compliment Vikings can pay you.
While we mostly share the same national history and culture with our foes in the insurance industry, the truth is, they are winning the battle when it comes to the financial component of dentistry. We’ve collectively given insurance companies more power than we realize. One of those powers is the ability to control what dentists get paid and what insurance benefits are available to subscribers. I firmly believe that dentists were swindled by the insurance industry, being told that in-network participation is a “partnership.” Yet, such partnership has proven to be a unilateral type of contract where dentists and patients have little to no say when it comes to fees and benefits. At least that’s what history and current interactions with insurance companies tell us.
If there’s anything I know about dentists, they are not stupid. They are certainly not weaklings, despite what insurance executives might believe. Dentists are not narrow-minded or without direction. No, they are strong, driven, passionate, and willing to fight an enemy that is trying to eliminate their ability to deliver quality care. Despite all the issues that dentists face when dealing with insurance companies on patients’ behalf, dentists are proving that insurance is a bully they can defeat. Here are ways dentists are fighting insurance in today’s climate of insurance administration:
It is no secret; doctors are dropping dental insurance in large numbers and in large part due to the lack of fee increases. As a response to this mass exodus, insurance companies are begging dentists to retain their in-network agreements and have even implemented fee increases with dentists who have retained in-network status. For many years, I’ve maintained the belief that insurance carriers need dentists more than dentists need insurance carriers. The positive changes that many insurance plans have implanted to retain participating doctors is evidence of this. I would argue that those changes are still not enough to address the postpandemic financial concerns and struggles that many dentists are still experiencing.