A scam or simply paranoia?

This is not a post I want to make, and not a subject that I normally cover in my posts, but this is what’s going on in my life and it is very distressing. It’s a tale of my own stupidity on many fronts, and the realization that I might have started myself down a long slippery slope. I really hope that’s  not the case, but if my gut feeling is correct perhaps you can profit by it.  Tell me if you think paranoia has set in or if you would trust your instincts.

About a month ago I fell asleep holding my ipad, and somehow (don’t ask, I was asleep, remember) managed to hit myself in the mouth with it. I knocked one tooth askew while breaking another.  One look in the mirror sent me scurrying to find a dentist since my previous one had retired, and like many artists with fluctuating funds, visits to the dentist weren’t high on my priority list.  I searched the internet and located one within walking distance from my home, a fairly new practice, or at least the building was new to the neighborhood.  I made my appointment, agreeing to a ” complete oral exam with x-rays” at the special price of 119.00. I was told the visit would last 90 minutes. After filling out extensive  forms and paperwork, I finally had the film of my teeth and a smiling dentist telling me that I had severe periodontal gum disease in my front teeth. Total shock!

What to do? He outlined several options, none of which sounded pleasant, or affordable. I asked for prices and procedures. He turned me over to his office manager (OM) after telling me how difficult it was to work any kind of price break or deal these days. Within minutes I was shown a quote – 5 pages of printout with itemized listings, and was told about CareCredit, a better deal than signing up for insurance I was assured. I was asked if I wanted to see if I qualified and (stupid me) I said sure, why not. Somehow, during the signup process the price originally quoted went down dramatically, and finally I did qualify with payments over $200 a month for way too long. When I said it sounded like more than I could pay, the upbeat response was that I would have a job soon, and then payments wouldn’t be a problem!

Well folks, I signed that paper, and walked out of there in a daze.  I was quickly wisked into another room and dental impressions were taken. I was told that my new teeth would be made and placed in my mouth on the same day of the extractions, three weeks away. I was in that dentists office less than 2 hours and it felt like my life had turned upside down. When I got home I told friends and family members and started to worry about what I had agreed to. I know what my income is, and I know how successful my job hunting had been, so I started thinking of getting other prices and finding different financing options. By morning I had made up my mind to cancel that agreement.  I called the dentist early the morning after my first visit; tried to speak to the office manager(OM) who wasn’t available, so I told the receptionist everything. I told her that they needed to stop everything on the teeth, I need a second opinion. She promised to have the OM call me. As the minutes and hours ticked by with no return call, my nervousness increased.  I finally got in my car and drove over there. The OM was out to lunch! An hour later, the OM was still not back, and I was told, not returning for the rest of the day, so someone else agreed to see me.  I only had a minor melt down in the reception area before this became possible.

My new office contact (NOC) heard me out, heard my fear and my worry about paying the high monthly cc payments without the slightest show of concern or willingness to place things on hold.  She informed me that the impressions had already gone to the lab, and the process already begun there. Not even 24 hours had passed at this point!  She tried to mollify me by explaining that part of the high cost was due to the procedures that hadn’t been fully explained to me. I argued that I still needed things to stop. As no money changed hands the previous day, I tried to pay for the initial office visit and asked to have any further charges sent to my home, and please, cancel that credit card. She said that it would have to go to the accountant, it was out of her hands and she couldn’t respond for 3 weeks. The last thing she said to me as I was leaving was that she wouldn’t charge for my visit today!  I thought that that was a very passive aggressive thing to say.

I also called the credit card company and  tried to close that account. I wrote a letter to the dentist again outlining my situation, asking the same things that I’ve already outlined and included a check for the initial exam.  A week or so later I called to confirm that my scheduled date for the extractions had been taken off of the books, and big sigh of relief, it had been removed.  Mollified by that, I didn’t follow up with the credit card people, only watching to see if the check had cleared my bank.

Two days ago a bill from the credit card company arrived, my balance was for the full amount plus interest! Wait!!!!!!!!!!  Over $10,000 and nothing had been done.  After a very long wait, I finally spoke with a customer representative at the cc company, and asked to dispute the charges. Then I call the dentist office, and spoke to NOC who I learned from reception was in the billing department.Yes, she said, they did receive my letter; they had not deposited the check as they didn’t want to confuse the issue, they had not yet heard from the accountant or gotten billing from the lab. Three weeks!  Can’t pick up the phone!???

Now, my stomach is in a turmoil. Why can’t I get a clear answer from these folks? Why can’t NOC just pick up the phone and find out the information so I can settle my account? Why did it take all this time to put together a bill when it took less than 10 minutes to present a 5 page listing of charges on the original day of my visit?  I have a really bad feeling about all of this.  Another call to the credit card company and I learn that the dispute doesn’t cover work done by the dentist, only the charges. ??? Huh, what does that mean?

So, right now, while hoping and praying that this is simply paranoia, I am preparing for the worst. What would you do if you were in this spot? It doesn’t do any good to get all caught up in the fact that this is very embarrassing, even though quite honestly it is embarrassing, and it doesn’t do any good to say nothing for fear of being foolish because I know it.  That’s like closing the barn door after the cows are gone. So, for the record, signing that credit card agreement was foolish, and not getting good dental care for way too long was too and not getting a reference before choosing a dentist is right up there on the list as well. I admit to all that. But……… surely there’s a lesson here, and if I wasn’t sharp enough to know it at the time, I can at least show you my error to prevent it happening to you.

I haven’t named the dentist, because I sincerely hope I can resolve this and that it is all just a case of paranoia, but if things go the way they feel like they might, rest assured, you will know soon enough, either way.

I also want to mention a part of the same tale, but a different page.  I obtained references for other dentists and got a second opinion. Things were not nearly as dire as I was lead to believe. No, I didn’t need to have every tooth in my head pulled out! The estimated cost for everything was dramatically cheaper!  No gimmicks, no hidden costs, no pressure.

The other bit of good news! Once over my panic, I remembered EASL, the artists support group that I’ve donated artwork to over the years. I made an application and they approved the funds to have my teeth worked on by the second dentist I just mentioned. This is nothing short of a miracle. Thank you EASL. I can rest a little easier knowing this.

I may be a fool, but I will shout it from the roof tops if my story will keep this from happening to another distressed person going through similar times. If you want to know the name of the dentist, send me a private message.  And please, let me know if you think I’ve totally lost my mind.

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