We all know about licensed professionals whether hairdressers, electricians, builders, funeral directors, doctors or dentists. Licensing means only that they have completed the required training as defined by the New York State Department of Education — and that they paid the state fee. Licensing does not qualify them as having the people skills necessary to do their job nor does it ensure that they have any ethics. The cardinal rule of ethics is this: “No one shall use another person as the means to an end.” Yet many of our licensed professionals do just that: They look at you as a cash cow and the means to their enrichment.
In fact, when you sit down and think about it, dentists are the only practitioners who willfully mutilate the patient and then charge the patient to fix the mutilation — they’re a lot like Greene county contractors or the New Baltimore highways department or the Ravena public works department. WTF! Think about that for a minute…
As soon as you complain, some dentists (like Kurt Froehlich of Coxsackie Dental Arts) will insist that you made a contract. Now, any contract is a meeting of the minds. But both parties have to agree on terms that are clear and unambiguous, and both parties have the right to ask for the terms to be put into writing just to be sure the terms are clear and unambiguous, and that the one party knows what is expected of him and the other party makes it clear what it expects. Once that is done we can assume that there is mutual informed consent by both parties to enter into a contract that is binding on each and enforceable by both parties. Note the key terms here: “meeting of the minds,” “clear and unambiguous,” “Informed consent.”
Note the key terms here: “meeting of the minds,” “clear and unambiguous,” “Informed consent.”
What this means is that once you have all the information you need and that information is clear and not double-talk, you have the option of entering into the contract or not. No “contract” can be forced upon you; if they do a procedure on you without your informed consent it can be criminal battery, maybe even assault! And incomplete information is worth as much as no information; you shouldn’t be left standing there to fill in the blanks.
Funeral directors are required by law to have a price list….Why shouldn’t dentists and physicians be held to the same or similar standard?
Editor’s Note: ⇒You need to be reminded that this is business, not a love fest. Your dentist is smiling at you because he’s making a lot of money but he’s smiling only as long as you play his game by his rules. Rock the boat and you’re in for a rude — and we do mean rude — awakening. That’s why we recommend you always insist on a treatment plan, in writing, plus an itemized estimate of the costs, and check with your insurance company to find out what they reimburse and whether you’re going to get stuck with having to pay a chunky balance. If your dentist tells you he wants payment up front and that you have to deal with the insurance company, RUN! If your dentist refuses to provide you with a written treatment plan or refuses to explain what his plan is or doesn’t come back to assure you understand what’s going to be done and that you understand everything, RUN! Always take notes or jot down notes about the experience as soon as possible after your visit. You may wish you had when the cat hits the fan. Where do you run, you ask? To your computer or to pen and paper and write a complaint giving the dentist’s name, his practice, dates and the facts of the incident. Send the complaint to us and we’ll forward it to the authorities. Or you can send us a copy and contact the Department of Health and the Department of Education, Licensing Division on your own. If you feel there’s a crime involved, like fraud, contact the office of the district attorney for the county you live in. Funeral directors are required by law to have a price list and to provide that price list to clients; in addition, some states even require funeral directors to provide side-by-side comparisons of burial vs. cremation costs! Why shouldn’t dentists and physicians be held to the same or similar standard?⇐
As we mentioned, we’re going to diverge a little this time and give our crooked and incompetent public employees and local elected officials a breather — that’ll give them an opportunity to do something really stupid we can write about—, and look at some local delinquents who have somehow slipped under the radar: local dentists. Now, we’re not singling out dentists because all the other health-related providers are such angels; we’ll get to them in due course. It’s just that we have some information of significant interest on two local dental vampires that might be vital for residents in the Greene County communities of New Baltimore and Coxsackie to know, and in which the Greene County District Attorney might be interested.
Gerstenberg & Froehlich beefed up their practices in a previously underserved community to cash in and take off!
The two dental practices we are focusing on are New Baltimore Family Dentistry (Marvin Gertzberg**) and Coxsackie Dental Arts (Kurt Froehlich), both run by two ready-for-retirement dentists who apparently beefed up their practices in a previously underserved community to cash in and take off. Gertzberg recently sold the New Baltimore Family Dentistry practice and is soon to retire; Froehlich is likely to do the same once he bleeds his patients and the community dry. Read on…
So what they’re doing in the good ole US of A, is what they do so well: misinform and practice deception.
Dentists like to be called “Dr” but in reality, they are not real doctors because their degree, although it reads “doctor of dental medicine” or “doctor of dental science”, isn’t really an academic doctorate. Same applies to most medical “doctors” in the United States. An academic degree, especially a “doctorate”, is awarded after the candidate earns a master’s degree, applies to and is admitted to a doctoral program, does appropriate original research, under the supervision of an adviser writes a dissertation and defends that research and the dissertation; and then is awarded an academic doctorate, usually a PhD. Medical doctors and dentists in the USA finish a 4-year undergrad degree that does not necessarily have to be science related (some are in music or English or some subject unrelated to medicine) but they do have to do pre-med or pre-dental courses. After being admitted to an accredited medical or dental program, they then do 2 years of basic science coursework (anatomy, pharmacology, pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, etc.) and if they do well, they then do 2 years of electives and clinical work. They have to pass a series of board examinations. Having done that, they graduate and go on to spend time on-the-job as interns, residents, and fellows, etc. During all of that, like any professional, they are expected to take continuing education courses, keep up-to-date in their specialties, and develop their skills just as any hairdresser, embalmer, or electrician would be expected to do. So what the for-profit corporate education system is doing in the good ole US of A, is what they do so well: misinform and practice deception.
[Editor’s note: In most developed countries, what the doctors and dentists we call “doctor” are not called doctor at all but Mr and referred to as physicians or dentists but unless they have completed the academic research and dissertation requirements leading to the award of a “real” academic doctoral degree, they are not called “doctor.”]
Let’s face it, most people who go to the doctor or to the dentist hardly open their mouths to describe what’s ailing them,and even fewer ask the right questions, and even fewer question the doctor or dentist. Most people go in and the doctor or dentist does most of the talking and less of the listening and the patient sits patiently waiting to be told what’s wrong and what’s going to be done. Did the doctor or dentist even listen to what’s wrong or discuss what’s going to be done. Hardly. In fact, all the while you are trying to inform the provider, they’re already deciding what they’re going to do. We’ve written a piece on “listening” that will be published on another blog. We’ll post the link once it’s up; you may want to read it.
** It appears that New Baltimore Family Dentistry has changed hands and M. Gertzberg doesn’t even appear in the staff directory. But that’s not our problem. Gertzberg may have left the practice but the organizational culture he created and left behind is still is alive and well — until proved otherwise.
Dentists must commit time to listen without interruption
Because we’re focusing on two local dental practices, let’s have a quick look at what Dr Stanley Weiss DDS, a dentist and psychotherapist has to say about dentists’ listening skills in Dental Economics, a professional journal for the dental profession (online at: Dental Economics):
“As a dentist and psycho-therapist, I’ve found listening is overlooked in dentistry…Dentists must commit time to listen without interruption to what patients and staff members communicate. In addition, you must devote energy to concentrate on blocking everything else to absorb what patients convey…To know patients, we must listen to them. With new patients, rely on experience to elicit dental and medical information, show how well you listen, and project personality and attributes such as your caring, humanity, and sense of humor…An inability to listen will be judged harshly. Your patients might interpret it as your not caring, disinterest, lack of empathy, or even incompetence.…Many dentists think the way to impress patients is to talk, talk, talk about their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. This may work infrequently. Instead, listen, ask questions based upon what the patient has said, and be attentive to the patient and what he or she says…What you invest in listening will be returned to you economically in patient retention and referrals. To most of your patients, your listening is more important than your mechanical skill.
Dentist: “… putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.”
That’s coming from a dentist! Here’s something else published by a dentist who had to publish it under a fake name because he was talking about his colleagues in the dental business. In his book, “Dentistry and Its Victims: The Self-Defense Handbook You Need to Protect Your Teeth and Your Pocketbook“, dentist Dr Paul Revere (not his real name): This little gem of a book exposes the dental profession and makes clear recommendations to patients. The title page of this includes a quote from Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary: “Dentist, n., A prestidigitator who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.” It is written by a pseudonymous dentist who knows the “inside” story and who is warns the laity about poor dentistry. He does more: he provides the reader with some sensible information about self-help and good routine care. I include this book on this list because of the criticism of dentistry and because the author explains some of the risks to the dentist of providing good dental care. There is a paradox here: the dentist who does the best possible job may, in fact, alienate his patients. The good dentist may, for example, save a tooth – at great personal cost to the patient – when the patient really just wants the thing out. The author also suggests this important point: “…organized dentistry will not publish, and actually suppresses, all studies on the quality of dentistry as it is practiced.” (p. 11) This is, of course, in order to maintain the position that dentistry already has. The author similarly makes the point that dentists’ ethics — What ethics? you might very well ask — prohibit, or at least restrain, one dentist from criticizing another. The same sort of code of silence exists for dentists as exists for physicians and scientists.(Ask your community librarian to get the book for you. Here are the details for requesting it: Publisher: St. Martin’s Press; Revised edition (1980), ISBN-10: 0312193912, ISBN-13: 978-0312193911).
Back to our focus: New Baltimore Family Dentistry and Coxsackie Dental Arts (CDA). These two dental practices might easily have been the reason for both Dr Weiss’ and for Dr Revere’s scathing assessments of the shortcomings and worse that we have to deal with in the dental office. What’s even worse is the highway robbery and deception that is going on literally right under our noses.
Dentists are the only practitioners who willfully mutilate the patient and then charge the patient to fix the mutilation
The pitiful part of all of this is how much people will accept for the sake of convenience and because they don’t have the guts to open their mouths. Rather than be confrontational those without dental insurance would rather not go to the dentist; after all this is a toothless society we live in, isn’t it. Or did I mean “ball-less.” And those with dental insurance don’t give a damn because, What the hell! they’re not paying the bill. But now local dentists have a new scam that they call their new “business model.” That model is this: You pay their price up front for what they do and they’ll submit the paperwork to your insurance company, who will then reimburse you for the amount they would reimburse the dentist. Well, that might sound real nice until you see the light: This new “business model” is win-win for the dentist and bullshit for you. Here’s why: The reason the dentist is doing it this way is because he doesn’t feel the insurance company is paying enough. So he milks you for his inflated price for the service and you get what the insurance company would normally pay him. Nice scam, right. But here’s what else they try to get away with: The dental office doesn’t even want to submit the paperwork to the insurance company, instead, the dental office wants to hand you the paperwork and have you do their work. This is the “business model” Coxsackie Dental Arts and dentist Kurt Froehlich is using to milk some, if not all of his patients. Example, Coxsackie Dental Arts (Kurt Froehlich) charges $1200 for a single-tooth permanent tooth replacement (on the existing tooth base). You pay Froehlich $1200 and the insurance company will pay you about $375 – 400.00 or what the insurance industry has determined to be fair and reasonable for that service. So if $375 or $400 is considered fair and reasonable and would be what any dentist would accept if he isn’t using Froehlich’s so-called business model, then the $375 or $400 would be adequate to cover the dentist’s expenses and still leave room for making some bucks. Why is Froehlich so unique and special that he needs to charge three-times what is fair and reasonable?!? Maybe Coxsackie Dental Arts or Mr Froehlich can explain why his practice is three times better than a fair and reasonable practice.
But we don’t think he can because we have information that shows what a scam he’s running at Coxsackie Dental Arts (CDA). A local resident went to CDA to get an infection seen to and to have two temporaries repaired. He first tried to get an appointment with CDA using their website “Request and Appointment” form. In about a week’s time and 4 attempts later, he still had no response from CDA, and called to make an appointment. (The resident says he tried two other practices: Michael Conte in Glenmont and even New Baltimore Family Dentistry using their online forms and got responses within a couple of hours). The resident explained to the CDA receptionist what he needed and that it needed to be done a.s.a.p. because he would be out of town the next week and didn’t want to mess with the infection and the broken temps. He got an appointment two days later but was told he had to pay $55 for a consultation. Why $55 for a new patient. We don’t get it. You should be happy to get a new patient and you don’t need to charge for a consultation when you’re discussing what the patient needs. But CDA and Kurt Froehlich do!
So, the patient is in the chair, the tech takes x-rays specifically of the infected area and of the temps needing repair. The patient attempts to explain to Froehlich what happened and Froehlich tells him he doesn’t need details. The patient offers to show Froehlich his previous x-rays only a year old. Froehlich says they’re too old, he needs to take his own. The patient tells Froehlich his former dentist has the permanent bridge for the teeth. Froehlich says he uses his own work and doesn’t know what the other dentist’s work is like. But … Froehlich doesn’t need details and doesn’t even say, “Well, let’s get the perms and have a look. Maybe we can use them.” Now Why? would he do that when he thinks he can charge 3 times more? That’s a slick trick!
Froehlich tells the patient that the root of the infected tooth is being absorbed by the body and has to come out. That would mean that the bridge (two teeth) would have to be replaced. (Had Froehlich done what any decent dentist would have done and looked at the previous x-rays, he would have had a basis for comparison, but he wasn’t interested in “details.”). When someone tells you he “Doesn’t need details,” he’s not listening and he’s not interested in you or what you have to say.
Froehlich then preps the teeth with the broken temps and his tech makes a temporary set. Froehlich says that to finish the work he would need $1200 downpayment, that a post-dated check would do, because it was a Thursday afternoon, and CDA is closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the patient was to be out of town all the following week. The patient doesn’t like the idea of doing post-dated checks and so pays Froehlich with a credit card. Froehlich then disappears (the patient, still in the chair, sees him leaving and sees him driving away). Froehlich leaves and the tech finishes up. Froehlich never reappears to check the work or to ensure that the patient had a clear idea of the treatment plan, which the patient repeatedly told Froehlich he wanted. We find that Froehlich was way out of line leaving the premises while a patient was still in the chair, not checking the work done by his tech, and not ensuring after all was done that the patient understood what the plan was. This was a new, first-time patient and that’s the treatment he got at Coxsackie Dental Arts. Nice impression, Froehlich! Froehlich was really froehlich (German for happy) once he got his money.
In the meantime, we have received documents that show that Coxsackie Dental Arts, Kurt Froehlich, submitted a claim to the patient’s insurance company for $2455.00 on the day of the patients initial visit! Froehlich is billing at least 3 weeks before the anticipated work was to be done (the patient was scheduled to return on August 3, 2015)!!! Now if the same rule applies to Coxsackie Dental Arts and to Kurt Froehlich that applied to New Baltimore Family Dentistry and to Marvin Gertzberg, that is, that a claim can’t be filed or paid until the work is completed, then Coxsackie Dental Arts is demanding payment for work not done, and is fraudulently claiming payment in the amount of $2422.00 ($2400 for the two crowns not even made on July 16, much less installed + $22.00 overpayment for the double-billing of the consultation)!!! Coxsackie Dental Arts and Kurt Froehlich have been found out; they’re robbing their patients blind with inflated prices for dental services, double-billing, and fraudulently claiming payment for work not done!
All of this raises the question of whether this is as widespread as it seems, and why no one has picked up on it until now. Where have you all been while Gertzberg and Froehlich are skipping happily to the bank? Here we have two dental practices in a backwater area who are cashing in like bandits and nobody seems to notice. Patients don’t, insurance company doesn’t, district attorneys don’t seem to care, but we do! Game’s over, dudes. We’re calling for in-depth audits of your practices and investigations by the insurance companies and district attorneys! We’re calling on your patients to demand transparency and accountability. New Baltimore Family Dentistry and Coxsackie Dental Arts have no right to steal form us directly, indirectly, or otherwise!
On the way to Boston, on the following Sunday evening, the temporary bridge falls out and the patient is left with two exposed stumps and a temporary in his hand! Exactly what he expressly intended to avoid when he went to Froehlich’s practice. He tries the next day to reach Froehlich’s office but gets a voice recording, leaves a message, and later in the day, while in meetings, gets a callback and a voicemail message telling him to get some FixaDent and put the temporary teeth back in.
The patient is suspicious by this time that he doesn’t know what exactly Froehlich is planning but that impressions were made on that Thursday but for what? There was not treatment plan and the patient didn’t know what Froehlich’s plan was; Froehlich didn’t hang around long enough to tell the patient.
That same day, the patient sends Froehlich an e-mail telling him to stop all work, to issue a refund of the $1200, to tell the patient what the treatment plan was, and why Froehlich took the impressions. The patient made it a point to assure Froehlich that he would pay for any work done to that point that was in accord with his, the patient’s, explicit requests: to check the infection and to repair the temporaries.
Froehlich wrote back refusing to honor the patient’s requests. The issues are now in dispute and the patient has contacted his insurance company to find out whether Froehlich put in any paperwork. The insurance company informed the patient that
Froehlich’s claim was processed on July 31, 2015, and the two unit bridge was denied because it was within the 5-year limit for replacement; Froehlich, although he charged the patient $55 for a consultation and was paid in cash, Froehlich still filed a claim with the insurer for the consultation and was paid for it. In other words, Froehlich double billed for the consultation, apparently wanting to get paid twice! It seems Froehlich, according to the insurance company, double-dipped and now owes the patient $22.00, since the insurance company paid $22 of the $55 Froehlich billed them for, even though the patient paid cash for the consultation.
But what’s ironic in this entire story is the fact that the dentist that made the claim to the patient’s insurance company for the two-tooth bridge in January 2014, was none other than Marvin Gertzberg of New Baltimore Family Dentistry, and it seems that there’s remarkable similarity between the two practices.
The patient made an appointment with Gertzberg at New Baltimore Family Dentistry for the same appearance of an infection in the same tooth that sent the patient to CDA. Gertzberg showed little interest in the infection and was looking for bigger fish to fry, it seems. Although the patient did not have a problem with a bridge, Gertzberg reported the bridge to be “loose”, he up-sold the patient into having the bridge replaced. Once the patient agreed to have the bridge replaced, Gertzberg found that one of the anchor teeth was “decayed” and he felt he could not assure results if he built the “decayed” tooth up, and persuaded the patient to allow him to extract it. Once the anchor tooth was extracted, it meant that in order to restore the bridge, an implant had to be installed. But the implant would cost an additional $2500. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible not to have extracted, to have done the best possible restoration and proceeded from there? Not according to dentistry in New Baltimore! Not when you can charge for a bridge, an extraction and an implant. That’s big money. But it all started when Gertzberg was asked to take care of an infection on the other side of the mouth! How did it come to his finding a “loose bridge”, a bridge the patient had no problem with? We have to look deeper for the answers.
You see, at the time, Gertzberg was planning to sell his interest in the New Baltimore Family Dentistry practice, so he had to glamorize his financials and his practice; he had to make the numbers look real good and attractive to a potential buyer. He did eventually sell the practice about a year ago but it was all Hush! Hush! Don’t you think that New Baltimore Family Dentistry patients had a right to know that the practice was being sold. We do! We asked New Baltimore Family Dentistry directly, twice about the sale and they refused to answer the question. Why would it be such a secret? And now we’re informed that Marvin Gertzberg plans to retire shortly. Apparently he’s used us to his satisfaction.
Well, an inquiry with the patient’s insurer told us something more about New Baltimore Family Dentistry and Marvin Gertzberg: The patient was very dissatisfied with the sales pitches and the shoddy way Gertzberg prepped the area where he expected to restore the bridge. The patient, having extensive knowledge in the field of dentistry, periodontics, and medical science, after having examined the tooth once extracted, found the tooth to be healthy. Moreover, it appeared that the “decay” was nothing less than the degradation of the cement holding the bridge in place. Another problem with Gertzberg’s poorly crafted treatment plan: Gertzberg removed a bridge that was not causing a problem. Gertzberg removed a bridge that was spanning the space of four teeth. Gertzberg extracted a visibly healthy tooth saying it was beyond restoration. Gertzberg intended to sell an implant, and Gertzberg only provided for a bridge to cover 2 teeth. What was the plan for the rest of the gap. Patient was never told. Only Gertzberg knows. But it gets better.
A bit of fraud going on here at New Baltimore Family Dentistry
When investigating Kurt Froehlich’s shennanigans at Coxsackie Dental Arts, the inquiry with the insurer informed the investigator that Froehlich’s claim to the insurance company for $2400 for 2 crowns was denied because a claim for the same two crowns was made in January 2014, within the limit period of 5 years. That claim was submitted by Guess who? Marvin Gerstenberg of New Baltimore Family Dentistry. According to the insurer, Gertzberg submitted a claim for dental work. for two crowns, and was paid $775 by the insurer. Gerstenberg was paid an additional $165 for the extraction. That’s a total of $840.00 (compare this to Kurt Froehlich’s $2400 for the same thing—except for the extraction—, literally!). But according to the insurance company, Gertzberg could submit the claim only if the work had been completed. It was not. When the insurance company was told that the patient left the practice because of dissatisfaction and that the bridge was never put in his mouth, the insurer stated that Gertzberg could be paid only if the work was completed, that is, that Gertzberg installed the permanent bridge in the patient’s mouth, completing the work. Even if Gertzberg had the permanent bridge made up, he could not be paid until the patient had the work completed and the bridge in his mouth. Seems that there’s a bit of fraud going on here at New Baltimore Family Dentistry; wouldn’t you think Gertzberg would know he can’t submit for reimbursement until there’s something to be reimbursed, like completed work. The insurance company is now investigating and intends to get the money back. We say Gertzberg should be disciplined.
There is still the question of why Gertzberg would remove a bridge over four (4) teeth and proceed to replace a bridge for only two? That simply doesn’t make sense. What you take out, Marve, you put back! Apparently, Gertzberg didn’t inform the patient of this craziness and the patient found out only when he contacted the insurance company!
Now think for a moment: What right does Kurt Froehlich and Coxsackie Family Dentistry have to do what he’s doing in this community and still profit by his unethical practices, and his scam of a “business model.” Can this community afford his ego? How many local residents have fallen victim to his over-inflated, ego-driven prices and walked away abused by this prestidigitator, in Bierce’s own diabolical words, “who, putting metal into your mouth, pulls coins out of your pocket.”
And how many times in the past has Marvin Gertzberg and New Baltimore Family Dentistry pulled this sort of trick and gotten away with it? Gertzberg puts a new slant on Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary: Gertzberg’s dentistry “puts nothing in your mouth while pulling coins out of your pocket.” As a matter of fact, Gertzberg takes more out of your mouth than he plans to put in! Bizarre way to do dentistry, isn’t it?
There’s more to these two stories and probably much more in addition to these two stories. All we can do is inform the public and let the public see that justice is done. The pitiful part of all of this is that Gertzberg and Froehlich are old and at the brink of retirement and cashing in on their practices, as unethical and crooked as they may have been; they should still be held accountable, however, and an investigation should be launched to audit both their practices not only by insurers but also by the Greene County District Attorney and the Department of Health, among others.
A dissatisfied customer tells about 28 people.
There is still some hope that public opinion will take its toll on practices like New Baltimore Family Dentistry and Coxsackie Dental Arts. In the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, page 7, there’s a statistic called “Viral Vitriol” that reads: “A customer who’s eventually satisfied tells 10 to 16 people, on average, about the experience, according to Arizona State’s 2013 “customer rage” study. A dissatisfied customer tells about 28 people.” This blog is doing far better than that. Now Mr Gertzberg, Mr Froehlich was it all worth it?
Well, everything will come out in the dirty laundry if this goes to court. The patient will subpoena everything to show what a slick money-grabber these guys are. Coxsackie Dental Arts and Mr Froehlich have a real uphill battle on a very slippery slope if you ask us. Froehlich is going to have one hell of a time explaining to patients and to a judge how he justifies his sleezy practices.
Use the comment feature to tell us about your healthcare experiences in Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and New Baltimore-Coxsackie.
(Do your part in informing the community and the world: Cut and paste the link to this blog article into an e-mail and send it to your contacts! Here’s the link: http://wp.me/p2jPFe-2sG)
“Qui tacet consentire videtur ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.”
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