Few of us know or really care about why we celebrate Labor Day, but some reflection is beneficial. The Haymarket Affair in Chicago, May 1886 was a labor strike chant: “an 8 hour day at the same pay” as the 60-hour – 6 day work week. Labor was gaining strength with unions against the capitalists industries. Redistribution of wealth, socialism, was appealing to abused workers and anger against authority, the Police, added explosive components. The demonstration started out peacefully, but heated up quickly with violence against the police, a bomb blast, shooting and killing, a mess to sort out. Sound familiar? So we honor the US worker who demanded better work conditions and literally fought to obtain them.
We dentists have been fortunate laborers, we set our own hours and vacation time, select who we desire to work with and have never had a reason to strike or cross angry picket lines under police protection getting to our job site. Our enviable position was gained because we were both the capitalists’ manager and the laborer at a highly skilled professional level – a true cottage industry. But that was yesterday, the times are changing!
Today, Wall Street corporations are managing a growing number of dentists: daily quotas and production requirements must be met or you are fired. Excessive over treatment and double booking grows the assembly line’s bottom line The corporate easing into the dentist driver’s seat is creating an unwelcomed and seemingly unstoppable paradigm shift- the dentist is now becoming the 1886 US blue collar laborer. I remember fighting the MSO (management service organizations) mentality among dentists; the forerunner of practice take- over, warning them of what they were giving up. The Insurance industry that captured medicine has always had dentistry in the cross hair, since they are Constitutionally free from price fixing coupled with “The Affordable Health Care Act” demanding lower fees from providers. With promises of full schedules, it didn’t take very long before the majority of dentists were servants of Dental Plans. Dental Schools rich with exorbitant tuition wealth are cranking out legions of workers to solve a phantom “Access to Dental Care” problem by throwing financially strapped dentists, burdened by enormous school debt into a very unfriendly economic system that does not recognize fee for service in a health care environment. The public is now conditioned to believe their insurance company takes care of their bill. It has gotten crazy too fast, but some folks (we dentists) better solve this Catch 22 or God forbid, dentists will be demonstrating in the streets and striking against management demanding “honest pay for a dentist’s day”. Could the “ Haymarket Affair” repeat itself? Time for reflection!
John B. Harrison DDS, MSc