Dentists Still Feeling Chronic Ache Of No Budget | WGLT

Dentists Still Feeling Chronic Ache Of No Budget

Jul 13, 2016

In the chair
Credit Henry Lawford / Creative Commons

The stopgap spending measure approved by lawmakers and the Governor at the end of last month did nothing to fix the structural deficit or the backlog of bills State government owes in Illinois. Take dentists for instance.

There are about 18,000 dentists in Illinois. The state owes them 150 million dollars.

Brad Barnes, a dentist in Normal, said he hasn't been paid for more than a year by the state dental plan. He is owed more than 100,000 dollars.

Barnes said dental equipment is so expensive, virtually all dentists buy on timed payments. And since they are putting off purchases, Barnes said that makes it harder to maintain excellent patient care. Barnes has also cut hours for workers and reducing supply purchases where possible, reducing economic activity his small business generates.

Barnes said profit margins have grown thin in recent years and the state situation has driven at least six dentists in the state out of business, predominantly in rural areas where patients now have to drive an hour or two to find care.

Barnes said if dentists are part of the preferred provider program of Delta Dental, they cannot ask their patients for money. Dentists that are not preferred providers can require patient payment up front that the state will reimburse later. But, Barnes said that tends to cause patients to put off treatment, which can mean a bigger bill later and potentially adverse health consequences. In that way too, dentists believe the budget standoff is undermining the economy.

Barnes is also the head of the State Dental Society. In this conversation with Charlie Schlenker, Barnes talked about the economic harm done to small businesses like his by the state budget deadlock.