Dentist & Dental Insurance: No Love Lost (video)

Dentists not accepting dental insuranceHalf of dentists have mostly or completely stopped accepting dental insurances, according to this survey.

"If all dentists dropped all insurances, then ALL dentists could collect their fees in full from everyone," declared one dentist. "They could also have more leeway to give courtesy discounts to whomever they choose instead of patients who belong to certain plans."

"I'd be cutting ties to 85% of my patient base!" objected an endodontist.

"We converted to [not accepting dental insurance] six years ago," explained one dentist. "We ask for payment at time of service, then send in the claim form for the patient to have insurance company pay them. People have to want to stay with you because this policy can rub many the wrong way. I have lost many a patient over this, but still gain many new patients every month who are fine with it. I have built a strong reputation in my community for personal service, quality, and outstanding cosmetic dentistry. Hopefully that is what keeps them coming back."

"So-called 'insurance' companies must be making a fortune on 'dental insurance,'" fumed another dentist. "When these programs began in the 1960's, the dental coverage limits generally were $500-750 per calendar year. A dental crown cost $100 then. Now, 50 years later, porcelain crowns cost $1000, but the yearly limits are $750-1500. The dental insurance plan premiums have surely kept up with 50 years of inflation, but the dental plan benefits haven't. Do the math… somebody is making a hell of a lot of money on these plans, and it is not the dentist!"

Read more about this dental management survey: Most Dentists Are Dropping Dental Insurances

Dental Insurance Survey: Dentists Handle Claims For Patients

dental insurance survey

When asked if they handle dental insurance for their patients, the dentists who responded yes to handling dental insurance were the clear majority in this survey.

On March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act became law and as states begin to deal with the implementation of the act, several are looking to adapt their own version of the plan.

California is just one of those states.

As reported in The Sun, Democrats in California have recently revived Senate Bill 810, which would create a public-private partnership to provide every California resident with medical, dental, vision, hospitalization and prescription drug benefits.

The California universal care plan would provide comprehensive dental care – something largely not addressed in the federal plan.

Here at The Wealthy Dentist, we were curious how dentists are currently handling dental insurance in their practices. Many of the dentists surveyed felt handling dental insurance for their patients is an important part of providing superior customer service.

“Not only do we handle insurance claims for our patients, but we also fight insurance companies for our patients until a claim is finally paid,” noted one dentist. “I believe its part of how much do we as dentists want to give customer service.”

In this survey, 85% of dentists handle all insurance claim forms for patients with dental insurance, 8% don’t accept insurance, and 7% don’t handle insurance claims, but do help patients fill out the forms.

Here are some dentist comments:

  • “Many of my patients would go elsewhere if they had to pay up front for services themselves.” (General dentist)
  • “I think its a matter of customer service to handle insurance for your patients.” (Indiana dentist)
  • “I pride myself on customer service and I believe it’s an absolute no-brainer as part of my truly great customer service. My team (including me) file ALL insurance claims for our patients.” (General dentist)
  • “As a specialist where one-time emergency visits are common, we find it necessary to research insurance benefits for our patients in order to present and collect estimated co-payments at the time of service.” (Ohio specialist)
  • “I would like to see better tools for educating patients about dental insurance benefits and liabilities, as well as setting better expectations with dental insurance verses medical insurance models.” (Massachusetts dentist)
  • “Dental insurance is one of the most aggravating things about dentistry. What I would like to do is collect from the patient, then help them submit the claims.” (California dentist)

For more on this survey see: Dental Insurance: Most dentists handle insurance claims for patients

Dental Insurance: Good Source of New Patients? (Video)

Dental insurance and new patientsDental insurance is sometimes the bane of a dentist’s existence.

Except that dental plans can also be a significant source of new patients.

“Insurance brings in new patients, but at a cost,” said a Kentucky dentist. “The fee schedules are terrible. I currently consider the write-off as a marketing expense.”

“When we became a provider, we were able to keep some patients who might have gone elsewhere,” said a Texas dentist.

Jim Du Molin and Julie Frey chat about results from a survey asking dentists if dental insurance brings new patients into their practice:

If it doesn’t get them new patients,  why a dentist would be a part of a dental plan network?

It’s a bold choice when dentists refuse to accept offensively low payouts from insurance companies — but one that can increase a doctor’s profitability and peace of mind.

And 13% of dentists responding to this survey said that they don’t accept dental insurance in any form.

So, of those who do accept insurance, how many find it an effective dental marketing tool?

Four out of five report that insurance brings in new patients to their dental practice, while only one in five says it doesn’t.

If you’re in the “one in five” category, you really might want to re-examine your relationship with dental coverage.

“Most of our patients come from word of mouth referrals by other patients,” said a Tennessee dentist. “We’re not a part of any dental insurance plans, although we do file insurance for our patients that have it. The lack of dental insurance does not seem to deter many of my patients from seeking needed dental care.”

“With so many dentists on the PPO provider lists, it proves not to be a source of new patient generation like the insurance companies promise it to be,” complained a California dentist.

Insurance lets me give the patients what I want to do without concern for payment. I give a higher level of care than they would have otherwise,” said a New York dentist.

“Why do patients who do not have insurance want it so badly, yet patients who have insurance hate it so much?” asked a Florida dentist.

It’s so true! When it comes to dental coverage, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side.

I think it comes down to that fact that patients almost always expect dental insurance to be like health insurance. They rarely realize how low the benefits tend to be.

Dental Insurance Payments & the Unhappy Dentist

Dental insurance companies paying lessThe relationship between general dentist and dental insurance company is not an easy one. In this survey, 87% of dentists say that dental insurance covers payments have dropped and fewer treatments are covered, this survey found.

“This is the perfect storm insurance companies have been waiting for,” said one dentist. “Several have reduced reimbursements and decreased coverage on certain procedures. Also attempting to dictate fees for non-covered services.”

Here are some other comments from dentists on dental health plans:

  • “Reimbursements are slower, smaller and more antagonistic to gain.” (General dentist)
  • “The best definition I have heard for an insurance company is a bank that does not give your money back.” (General dentist)
  • “Insurance companies are getting too much power. No way should they be able to dictate our charges for procedures they don’t even cover.” (Pennsylvania dentist)
  • “Employers have reduced coverages across the board.” (General dentist)
  • “Patients have asked if we raised our fees, but their insurance just pays less.” (Texas dentist)
  • “STILL $1,000 annual max? Is this the now only thing on the entire planet that has not gone up in the last 50 years?” (Illinois dentist)
  • “I have not seen any dental plans start raising their maximums to compensate for inflation. I have only seen a small change as to where 1 maybe 2 insurance companies are starting to pay for dental implants.” (Georgia dental office worker)
  • Dental insurance companies should not be allowed to set fee caps for network providers. It is ridiculous that our procedures get discounted by so much that it doesn’t cover the cost of the procedure to do it. Yes, we can drop out of networks, but in this economy, doing so can mean the end of your practice.” (Kentucky dentist)

Read more: Dental Insurance Payments Have Dropped, Say Dentists

Dental Plans Are NOT Dental Insurance

Discount dental plans are not dental insuranceCalifornia regulators are going after dental health plans that claim to offer big benefits but deliver very little.

There have been over 150 consumer complaints in California about these plans over the last four years. Though the state requires discount dental plans to be licensed, enforcement has been spotty. The state is now seeking new licensing requirements.

It is estimated that some 6 million Californians have a discount health or dental plan. Some of these discount dental plans have advertised themselves as dental insurance rather than just a discount plan.

Several years ago, California ordered Care Entrée to stop offering dental coverage in the state. Though members were promised unrestricted access to providers, the state found that claim “illusory.” The state also found that the company’s advertising implied they were offering an affordable dental insurance product.

As a dentist, I’m sure you understand dental insurance… but clearly a lot of consumers don’t!

Read more: California cracks down on discount health plans


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