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San Diego dental offices charging PPE fee

Posted at 5:34 PM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-22 20:47:12-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A patient at a North Park dental office got upset after she got hit with surprise fee.

Two Thursdays ago, Linda Morrow - donning a mask and gloves - went to Pristine Dental Group for a root canal and bone grafting. After the procedure, Morrow, who doesn't have dental insurance, paid cash for the bill. It was in line with the estimate.

"The total bill was $350. I didn't have change, so I gave them $360 because I only had $20 bills," said Morrow.

Morrow says when no one in the office could make change, the receptionist spoke up.

"She commented, 'Oh, PPE.'" said Morrow.

Morrow says her new bill was for $360 dollars, including a $10 charge for personal protective equipment used by the dental staff.

"That shut my mouth. I was stunned," said Morrow.

Confused, Morrow paid the full amount and left.

"My concept was that it was definitely an afterthought. If I had exactly $350 or my debit card, I would not have had to pay the charge," said Morrow.

Morrow posted details of the charge of the Nextdoor app. Quickly, several neighbors responded that they also have paid similar charges at their dentist offices, ranging from $10 to $25. In an email sent out to patients one of the dentists attributed it to the "inflated cost of PPE."

"If I had to buy my own personal protective equipment for me and my family, they should have to buy it for themselves," said Morrow.

Morrow points out no other businesses has charged her for their PPE. On its website, the California Dental Association cautions dental offices who apply the fee to charge the same amount of everyone.

As for Morrow's bill, her dentist calls it an oversight, saying the fee should have been added to the estimate, because everyone is charged the same fee. The owner of Pristine Dental says all patients with an email on file are sent an explanation of the new fee before the appointment. Morrow says she get email updates but says she never received such an email.

Some insurers do cover the PPE fee.