Friday, January 9, 2009

Some Manners, Puhl-eeeease

WARNING: Uncharacteristically long post.

So I'm back to work and it's amazing- after my first full day yesterday, I was already exhausted! I guess it's the project's timbre of complex work performed at break-neck speed. Sigh.

This afternoon, despite my already insanely heavy workload with accompanying overly optimistic deadline, I took a time-out to go to the dentist. I was referred to her a couple of years ago by my friend who lives in the area, and I ended up being very pleased with both her demeanour and skill. Plus, as someone who only recently obtained insurance, her rates were reasonable. The only downside to her office is that the receptionists tend to be inept and downright rude. However, since once I am able to explain to them my situation and have them assign me an appointment, my dealings with the receptionists is minimal and so I have continued to go to her.

Last week I made my appointment, and as usual ran into a few snafus. First, they insisted on requesting my social security number, despite my repeatedly explaining that the insurance company itself didn't collect that information when we registered, so my providing it was both unnecessary and unproductive. They finally settled, after multiple phone calls, on both my date of birth and my husband's. Next, due to the holiday last week, they were unable to confirm my eligibility. No matter, I figured; my appointment was almost a week away, so there was plenty of time to iron everything out.

Or so I thought. This afternoon when I arrived, the drama immediately began to unfold. The receptionist looked at her book and said that a woman had come by yesterday claiming to be me and cancelled my appointment. She said that they could still take me, but felt the need to comment: Do you have any enemies? Ha Ha. I thought to myself, she's only 19 and obviously more interested in her makeup than manners, so just let it go. I selected my magazine and took my seat.

After a few moments she called me over (without a "Please": ____, come here, which I again attributed to English being her second language), and she told me that they had been unable to confirm benefits because they didn't have my social security number. My question to her of "Why didn't you call me before I came to tell me there was a problem"- which I will admit was uttered in an exasperated tone, was "Why should we call you?".

That's when my patience and last shred of good-will went bye-bye. I demanded again: Why had a week gone by and only now, upon arriving for my appointment, did they inform me that they had been unable to confirm benefits? Especially given that I had provided all the required information and explained that the insurance company didn't have our SSNs, so it was not required. She kept insisting that our SSNs were required, and tried to convince me that they had called me subsequent to my last conversation with the other receptionist the same day that I had made the appointment. I explained that the only time I spoke to the office was the same day and asked to see her paper with all of the notes, i.e, our personal information. She refused. At which point I decided that she had crossed the line.

She must have noted that she couldn't bulldoze me, because she called the insurance to try to confirm benefits again. She got the automated system, and when the prompt listed the option for members registered in the last 90 days, I noted that we would be listed under that category. She responded that she knew what to do; she had to reach a live representative. I figured, okay Smartie Pants, let's just see. After a short while she demanded my SSN again, at which point I responded that I don't know my husband's SSN by heart, and more to the point it wouldn't get her the information she needed. Since she kept on insisting, I decided that my time was simply being wasted, and if they couldn't do their jobs before I arrived, forget it. I told her forget the whole thing, keep the appointment as cancelled, and left, warning her that they had better not attempt to bill me for a cancelled appointment.

I called my husband, who was just this past week at the dentist himself, and inquired if they had asked him to provide his SSN. He responded no. I then called customer service myself, and in under 2 minutes, with less information that I had provided the dental office, had them confirm my eligibility. As I was speaking to him, I went back to the dental office, explained that I had the CSR on the phone, and tried to hand the receptionist my phone so that she could speak to him and confirm benefits. She refused. She said that she had to process claims through their own system. Can anyone say Bizarr-o?

I decided enough was enough, and demanded that she give me my chart, because I was no longer planning to be a patient with them. She refused, with a smirk, saying that I had to wait for the dentist, and tried to continue with her generally superior attitude. I told her to just stop talking to me, that I wanted to speak to the dentist. I then stood by the window for almost an hour, watching her do basically no work. She evidently has the job through nepotism; having done her job back in Canada, I know that if you don't treat customers well, you're fired in a blink of an eye. When she began to peel an orange, I asked her if she would mind retrieving my chart while we were waiting for the dentist, since I had to return to work, and wanted to minimize any additional wait time. She began once again with the whole to-do that she needs to find me in the system by insurance. I told her that this was the first time I was visiting the office with insurance, so she could find me simply by looking under my family name. She smirked and tried to prove her case, at which point I told her once again to just stop talking to me.

Finally the dentist came. She recognized me and said, yes you're her patient, and I proceeded to tell her what had transpired. The funniest line? "Ok, she is rude, I'll speak to you and be polite". The receptionist just stood there giving the smirk and superior look. Sadly, the end result was the same: they record the SSN of everyone for billing, even when it's not necessary. As someone who recently had to close her accounts because personal information was leaked, I find that really frightening. She tried to make the case that only she knows the SSN of her patients, which, let's be honest folks, is a load of hooey. If that was the case, the receptionists wouldn't insist on you telling them that piece of information, would they? Anyhow, I politely declined, was told that my chart was already archived, and I told her that unfortunately I would be unable to remain her patient. Did I even get the piece of paper in the end that contained both my personal information and that of my husband? Most assuredly not.

The upshot is that while she is an excellent dentist, there are many excellent dentists, and for me it's more worthwhile to go to someone where the office staff is at least relatively pleasant. Let's see if I get a bill for a missed appointment anytime soon. Sigh. Perhaps the saddest part of the whole ordeal, beyond the supreme waste of time and the need for me to toe the line- was that it reminded me of what my Russian-born friend recently quipped to me about being within close proximity to non-Jewish Russians: "I moved here to get away from these people!!!" Whereas previously I viewed the whole Kings Highway to Brighton Beach scene as a fascinating snippet of sociology, I feel that I was inducted into the notorious anti-semitism festering in that group.

Wish me luck in finding a new dentist.


  1. Not surprising. I actually am writing a post about the same thing: wonderful doctor with rude staff. I feel for you.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read my whole diatribe. And I'm sad to hear that the drama is common place. I look forward to reading your post...