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I recently scheduled an appointment for a treatment plan (gum graft) that covered only some of the teeth I needed work on. The reason I opted to have only some teeth worked on is that insurance covers the cost up to a certain amount per year. On the day of the appointment, I checked in and paid the exact amount that I agreed to for the limited treatment plan before going in to see the doctor. Two days later, I receive a call from the office telling me that my doctor in fact had done all my teeth and that I was due to pay $1500 upon my follow-up visit. I did suspect during the operation that the doctor was doing more than asked, but it would have been too late to ask and I was being operated on so that was the least of my concerns. I have not met with them yet to discuss the issue, but I believe they are clearly at fault for not communicating with the doctor that I did not sign up nor pay for the full treatment plan.

Am I liable at all for paying the medical bill they are now asking me to pay?

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    Not a lawyer so not "answering" but if you specifically told them to only work on some of the teeth/gums and they did more, that is their fault and you should not have to pay. Of course, if you choose not to pay they can still send you to collection and you will have to fight it there. Or they can choose not to send you to collection and simply discharge you as a patient, i.e. gotta find a new dentist. If the dentist is an honorable person I would hope that he/she admits the gaff and writes it off. – Andrew Steitz Sep 9 '17 at 16:56
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    AlexR: THanks for providing an update to your question. To make it work better on this site, would you consider posting it as an answer instead of adding it to your question? Your update really answers the question, so it would work better as an answer (can be upvoted, shows question has an answer etc.). – sleske Sep 26 '17 at 9:58
  • Also note that self-answers are explicitly encouraged on StackExchange, so you're not "cheating" (plus you may get upvotes :-) ). – sleske Sep 26 '17 at 9:58
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I can't answer the question of liability, but my case is now resolved and I've come across some useful information. Please note that I am based in the US, so some of the information is strictly for US residents.

First off, I resolved the payment issue on my follow-up visit. Their point of contention was that the doctor had to do all my affected teeth in one session, and my point was that the staff member I spoke to gave me the option to do only half of the affected teeth. They admitted that this was an error on their part and so we negotiated an amount that was completely fair to me.

In the meantime (prior to the visit), I had also written an email to the office of the attorney general in my state, and while they don't provide legal advice to private citizens, they did mail me an envelope with helpful information on what actions I could take. In short, there are several parties that can help resolve disputes between dentists and their patients, including the attorney's office (for example, they can help by directly contacting the business in a process called "mediation"), and there's also the option of going to small claims court.

Key take-aways from this experience, for those who may find themselves in similar situations:

1) talk to your doctor or the staff to explain to them your side of the story. They should be sympathetic to it.

2) the amount on medical bills is negotiable.

3) for more assistance, contact your state attorney general's office. In addition to providing resources, they may even be able to intervene on your behalf.

  • Good practical advice. On the merits it is a close call because a lot of medical service payment obligations arise from a quantum meriut theory that valuable services are provided and benefit you so you should have to pay, rather than a contract theory. – ohwilleke Sep 26 '17 at 19:51

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