I’m wondering if it’s possible to have an Auburn, AL dentist take over my treatment. I’m 38 and didn’t go to a dentist at all until I was 25. To be blunt, that visit was pretty traumatic because I had a lot going on and I guess they weren’t used to seeing people like me. I only ended up having a tooth pulled that day because I was in pain but never went back after that. Then, about two years ago, I got decent insurance and signed up with another practice.
Obviously, I still have a lot going on, but they were really good about creating a plan for me that involved doing at least some treatment each month and then paying $200 each month. Some months, I’d receive less treatment and some months, I’d receive more, but with the plan, I’d get everything done within my budget in a little over four years. It sounds like a long time, but going this route really made it more manageable. They described it as being like paying for a car, only at the end of it, I’d have the smile I wanted.
All that’s been great. I’m about two years in now and I’ve really been happy with the practice. The problem is that I just moved to Auburn and that practice is about a two-hour drive each way for me. I pretty much need to take a whole day off work each time I visit the dentist and that’s not realistic for me right now.
I mentioned this to the practice and asked if they could give me a copy of my records. They not only refused to give me my records but said that I couldn’t transfer my treatment because some of the work, like crowns, are only partially done and the dentist who started them is the only one who can finish them.
I think there’s a possibility I’m upside down with them in terms of payment, but it’s impossible for me to know where I am without a detailed statement and my records, so I know what’s been done. I don’t want to be difficult since they’ve been so good to me, but I feel like they’re holding me hostage. Are they allowed to do this or can I force them to transfer my treatment?
First, it’s commendable that you kept at it and found an office that would help you restore your smile. You should feel good about that. You’ve come such a long way! Let’s dig into your question a bit.
Your Old Office is Required by Law to Provide You with Your Records
Regardless of their logic and previous behaviors, your old office is not doing right by you and may even be breaking the law.
You may have heard of HIPAA, otherwise known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Most people think of it in terms of privacy or security, but there’s a provision in it that guarantees you the right to access your records. There are stipulations about what that includes, fees they can charge, and other details, but the gist is they have 30 days to provide you with your records after you’ve requested them. They cannot legally hold your records hostage.
You Can Begin Treatment with Another Dentist at Any Point
You don’t need their permission to find a new dentist in Auburn. True, things get a bit more complicated when a procedure was not finished. For example, if the dentist had a crown made for you, but it wasn’t seated yet, it’s better to go back to him and have him put the crown on. But, the reality is that sometimes people genuinely can’t return to the dentist who started the work. They may move, become ill, or any number of things. Another dentist can step in to finish, though you’ll likely be financially liable for any work that is already complete.
Identifying Where You Stand Financially May be Difficult
Dentists break up treatment like this dentist did all the time. Usually, it’s done in a way that you’re pre-paying for treatment or the practice is allowing you to carry a very small balance with them that gets cleared when you make the next payment. Hopefully, this is what they’ve been doing and you’re close to even right now or perhaps even have a credit. However, if they started with the more expensive treatment, you may have a balance to pay off when leaving. What you’re going to need to do here is go over your records with a fine-toothed comb, looking at each procedure code and identify what was started and completed. Then, confirm with your insurance company what they were allowed to charge for each procedure and what should have been written off. From there, you should be able to identify what your total personal balance owed was compared to what you paid.
Because you don’t have a dental background, it’s advantageous to have your new dentist confirm what work was completed and work with your insurance company to determine what you should owe for that.
The bottom line is that you can transfer to a new dentist and the old one must give you your records, but working out what’s still owed, or if you’re due money back, will be the bigger challenge if they’re making this difficult. Best of luck to you and keep up the good work!
This blog is sponsored by Dr. Raymond Bolt, an Auburn, AL family dentist.