Q: When I left my periodontist’s office I was told I owed $20.00 for Covid. When I called later for an explanation, after handing over the cash like a good patient I was told the money was to cover the increase of the cost of PPE. There was no previous discussion or information in reference to this charge. Is this price gouging?
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A: Thanks for the feedback and for not using my column to paint the mailbox, tinder for a fireplace or as filler in shipping Christmas gifts. I have been receiving auto parts lately packed in Chinese newspaper! (Insert angry comment of your choice here.)
My practice is not doing this, however I don’t think its price gauging as the definition reads: Price gouging occurs when a seller increases the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. Twenty dollars would be the going rate.
It’s not uncommon to see this charge these days, but it’s just good, ethical business practice and customer service to let the patient know ahead of time that there will be charges for PPE.
I personally am against charging an extra fee for PPE’s. If the prices of sutures goes up or the prices of bone graft material or the price of titanium for implants, why aren’t offices tacking on an extra charge for that? Answer: Because it is already factored in to the procedure fee.
Well run businesses evaluate their overhead and fees annually and make adjustments as needed.
Here is where I think it might be OK for a PPE charge:
Large dental practices that are insurance-based with high overhead. They take ALL the insurance plans including PPO and HMO/DMO’s that pay the office and/or the patient a ridiculously low amount. CIGNA, Delta, Humana to name a few. Many practices in this arena often thrive on the “twenty minute cleaning” and may use lower quality, cheaper dental labs. These are the practices where I can understand them charging a PPE fee.
I remember the days when I practiced in Manhattan during the AIDS crisis and the same dilemma was in play; too charge or not to charge. You know how I feel.
Mitchell A. Josephs DDS, PA
Cosmetic,Implant & General Dentistry
44 Cocoanut Row
Palm Beach,FL. 33480