Offices across the country are beginning to see a number of “Baby Boomer” patients reaching retirement. Many people who anticipated retiring in 2008 or 2009 held off because of the stock market and poor economy, and they are now comfortable with where things are and are getting ready to retire. It is important for your team to be aware of these patients’ up and coming needs - including the fact that they may lose their dental insurance at age 65.
It can be a good idea to start educating and preparing your patients for the future. This may start as early as age 60. For example: you and your hygienist notice at the morning business meeting that your patient “Tammy” is coming in, and she has just turned 60 years old. Tammy may be thinking about retiring at 65. She has a lot of large fillings that have become older and will need to be replaced within the next 5-10 years. Your team has been monitoring these fillings for a couple of year, and now is the time to start getting some of them done.
Although the fillings are not urgent, Tammy needs to be informed about why she should start moving forward with replacing them. The hygienist may inform her: “Tammy, you have a lot of large fillings that we are monitoring and they are starting to look suspicious. I am going to have the doctor come in and do an exam to see if we should start replacing some of them. They will need crowns and since we only have five years before you lose your insurance we may want to start getting some of these done. This will allow you to maximize your insurance benefits over the next five years, and hopefully prevent you from having to pay for a lot of crowns in the future.”
When the doctor comes in to do the exam, s/he will look to see which fillings are in need of being replaced with a crown, and will start by treatment planning those for the year. The doctor will also verbally inform the patient of all the fillings that will need to be replaced over the next five years and the hygienist will make a “to-do list” in the clinical notes.
Tammy may want to have the crowns done towards the end of the year, as long as they are not urgent. This way if one of the other large fillings needs attention or if an accident happens, she has not used all of her insurance at the beginning of the year. At the next hygiene appointment, the doctor and hygienist will continue to move forward with replacing any large fills. This may be true of amalgams also.
There are two important things that need to be done before a patient loses insurance coverage at retirement or age 65:
When a patient is about to lose their insurance coverage, I sometimes estimate the cost of annual treatment for them. I ask how much their current monthly insurance premium is, then I add the cost of either two hygiene appointments or four periodontal maintenance appointments and an fmx and one crown and divide by 12. I also do the same thing without the crown. I tell them if they put this dollar amount away in a separate account each month, they probably won’t even use it all on treatment and will save money. I close the conversation with this comment: “There is a reason insurance companies are some of the wealthiest businesses in the country, and it’s not because they are giving away all their money providing treatment for patients.”
Just because your patient population is getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose them as patients. Educating them early, before they retire, will help to maintain them as long-term cash patients.
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