“There’s not a single entity that is not for profit, even the non-profits, because somebody has to be paid somewhere along the line. If the for-profit entities weren’t doing it, who would be serving these people? Before they stepped in there was no treatment!”
– Dr. Stan, my (3rd generation) dentist, 30 yrs. experience
This brings us to that bastion of balanced journalism, PBS’s “Frontline”, which offered a gross misrepresentation of Medicaid dentistry in this country in their June 26 episode. “Dollars and Dentists“goes laughingly out of its way to bow at the altar of free health care and criticize for-profit providers who have provided a solution to a lack of dental care for low-income families.
The show was a parody of “investigative journalism”, trotting out a rogue’s gallery of Typical Sympathetic Victims: poor people, the toothless, old ladies who are hard of hearing, screaming children, the undereducated, and crusading public officials. “Correspondent” Miles O’Brien accomplished this with the assistance of the Center for Public Integrity, an organization funded by a slew of Leftist charitable organizations.
Mr. O’Brien/CPI displays all the tactics of “gotcha journalism”. He misrepresents his “unbiased position” in order to gain access to a company eager to educate the public; betrays his subject’s trust in editing by cherry-picking one individual who had a bad experience; uses the Hasty Generalization fallacy to extrapolate this experience to the entire sector; and thus demonizes a for-profit entity that has provided a real solution to a serious crisis. Oh, and he himself gets fooled by not vetting his “whistleblower”, who turned out to be a disgruntled former employee and convicted felon. Whoops!
Still, it isn’t enough to demonize the private-equity-backed solution. Mr. O’Brien/CPI has to sing the praises of non-profit healthcare. The effect (and intent) is to create a contrast between those wonderful folks who do dentistry out of the goodness of their hearts while those evil profit-mongering dentists only dole out terrible pain to innocent ragamuffins.
The final product only presents softball questions tossed at the non-profits, and interviews with their satisfied clients, while doing exactly the opposite with the for-profit providers. The companies vilified by Mr. O’Brien/CPI, Kool Smiles and Aspen Dental, responded to the hatchet job here and here.
They shouldn’t have had to reply at all, for never once does Mr. O’Brien/CPI do what a real journalist would, which is to clearly announce, “There are a few bad apples in every business, and Frontline does not suggest that all for-profit clinics behave in this manner”.
Nor does this “journalist” do any of the following:
- Provide statistics on the number of complaints or actions brought against any DMSO in relation to those brought against other types of dental practices.
- Present patients who had great experiences at the for-profit providers.
- Present patients who had bad experiences at the non-profit providers.
The Real Solution
The one admirable thing Mr. O’Brien/CPI does show is there are numerous alternatives in the market – philanthropic, non-profit, dental therapists (akin to physician assistants) and DMSO’s. Yet he demonizes one of these alternatives because, as the Liberal Mainstream Media always does, it’s “bad” if someone makes a profit.
The shame of it is, the real journalistic angle is only briefly alluded to in Mr. O’Brien/CPI’s piece. Dr. Stan articulates it thus: ” ‘Access to care’ is the buzzword nowadays. But guess what? If you go to the dentist when you don’t have a problem, it isn’t expensive. Yet nobody advocates for preventative care, like brushing and flossing and fluoride. Instead, if you wait until you have a problem, you can’t get treatment because it’s too invasive and too expensive.”
Maybe Mr. O’Brien/CPI should take on that issue next time. It’d be better than sitting through another of his hatchet jobs without Novocain.