Dental Economics

Address all communications to the Department Editor C. B. Warner, A. M., D. D. S., Biloxi, Miss.

THE PROPHECY. There is no advantage in being a warner unless those whom you warn seriously examine the evidence which you offer. There is still less to be gained, when you see your prophecy come true, to exclaim, “I told you so.” for the fruit has a bitter flavor and one can only accept the inaction and hope for the best.
It was at the New Orleans Convention three years ago that I addressed the Economic Section and in the discussion foretold the dissolution of private dentistry, the continued growth of the free clinic, and the socialistic inroads which were to follow the present course of action. My idea was to garner our political strength and to awaken the profession as to its peril
At the same time Dr. Leland, of The American Medical Association, also talked along similar lines on the fight which that organization was making against panel medicine.
THE FULFILLMENT. What is the result today? It has come to pass much faster than either of us dreamed of. Already, the Government has entered the field in a socialistic mass way and is running a steam roller over those who would block its way. A group of Washington doctors are threatened with jail because they refuse to cooperate with certain other doctors, or admit them to their societies!
Jake, who runs a dental laboratory in Meridian, Mississippi, begins to see the handwriting on the wall and sends forth this warning to his customers:
“Panel or State Dentistry is at our Door. It is coming and it is up to you whether you are going to organize and be able to control things your way –or someone will control things for you. ‘Please take note’: An order was placed by the WPA for 12,000 sets of teeth in one State to be made for WPA Workers. (The low bidder gets Government contracts.)”
As it is only one step further for the Government to furnish its own laboratories and dental supply houses no wonder these assistants to our profession are alarmed!
In certain communities over half the population are on relief and while these recipients cannot pay much for dental work, it amount to considerable when taken as an aggregate. The Government will allow them to pay high prices for commodities, transportation, interest, and rents, but wishes them to get dental work for almost nothing; and also all others who have federal positions.
The following newspaper clipping illustrates how quickly labor catches on the fact that, while the Government give the labor union all kinds of protection, it is not so particular about invading the dental field:
“After adopting a resolution favoring the establishment of a national health unit in Harrison county, the Employees’ Protective Association of Gulfport has called a mass meeting for Friday night to discuss the proposal and to enlist the aid of other organizations in procuring the unit.
Resolutions were forwarded to President Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, Harold Ickes and Governor Hugh White asking that the government’s program as outlined by President Roosevelt for free hospitalization and medical service to WPA workers and the unemployed be instituted in Mississippi. Spokesmen said it was understood that WPA and PWA funds were available for such a service in the South.”
So, without any further Congressional action, your income has some generous slices taken from it. Whose fault is it? Yours. You have had plenty of warning but never did a lick against it; so take your medicine.
THE FUTURE. Since the Administration has served notice that it will make socialized medicine a major issue this winter there will be a big fight ahead. Will the dentists take their places with the physicians, or give up the fight before it begins? Thousands, in many lines of business, have been ruined when the NRA, and other triple letter agencies have risen; and fallen by the way side. Will dentistry be ruined likewise by political job hunters aided by a Congress that does not believe in socialism? Can we be sure that we will have a true socialism, or will it be some of the mongrel types that have already been foisted upon us?
THE PRESS. It is strange, indeed, that a part of the press continues to hound the doctors because they will not endorse the Health Conference Plan, which these physicians believe to be a half-baked socialistic measure! It never occurs to them that every other line of business fights socialism in its ranks also, including the newspapers. But we should speak softly. The other lines are not under fire by the Administration –only the American Medical Association.
These newspapers and magazines would have the public believe that the physician is a greedy, incompetent, unpatriotic man who is largely responsible for the great amount of sickness now prevalent. Can it be possible that these periodicals exaggerate? Our scientific societies, which are not subject to bias, assert that the American doctor ranks the best in the world. As to greediness, have you ever seen bankers unite to give free interest to the poor? Or merchants, manufacturers or newspapers giving away their wares? Yet the doctors are constantly giving free clinics.
As to the matter of widespread disease the Government, which compels the farmer to reduce acreage and destroy crops in order to maintain high food prices, is in poor business to criticize the doctor on this score. Everyone knows that high food prices spells famine and one third of our population is under nourished. Malnutrition is responsible for a major portion of our diseases!