6.11.10 Issue #431 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Use Insurance Plans As Your Building Block
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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On a daily basis, you and your staff must manage the realities of inadequate dental insurance coverage that most patients have. I recommend that you take the direct approach in tackling this challenge, starting with a conversation between your financial coordinator and the patient in which you look at the realities of the patient’s plan together, something along these lines:

According to the insurance information you have provided, your employer has purchased a plan that offers the following benefits and coverage.” Discuss those with the patient, for example: “The plan that you have has a small per calendar year balance of $1,000. That amount will help you secure some of the care you need but it will not cover everything. Your plan requires a deductible and a co-payment of $____ on fillings and crowns. It also provides for two preventive cleanings each year to encourage you to secure preventive care.

It’s essential for patients to understand what the dental insurance provided by their employer or spouse’s employer covers, but even more importantly, they need to know that the insurance company will not dictate the level of care you offer patients.

Managing the patient’s expectations regarding their insurance is only the first step. The next is helping them bridge that gap between dental needs and desires and financial realities by providing financial options. The financial coordinator sits down with the patient and explains the various payment options. For example, “The total fee for your treatment, which includes (provide a complete list of treatment and care that will be provided to the patient during the course of the treatment plan) is $4,200. Your insurance will cover $800, which leaves a balance of $3,400.” From that point you can offer a variety of other options, including:

  • Treatment financing through CareCredit
  • Encouraging the patient to build a credit on their account in advance
  • Allowing the patient to pay for multiple appointment procedures in installments, paying an equal portion each time they come in for an appointment
  • Accepting all major credit cards

Scripts are ideal for addressing this type of situation and ensuring that the financial coordinator is not stammering and stuttering when dealing with the tricky topic of payment. They enable staff to clearly educate patients on treatment financing options that can bridge the financial divide. For example, your financial coordinator might follow a script such as this:

“Mrs. Smith, we offer three convenient payment options to help you secure the care you need. The first is a patient financing program offered through CareCredit. It allows qualifying patients to secure no-interest loans for up to 18 months. The second option would allow you to build a credit on your account and then begin treatment. And the third option would allow you to break your payments into equal installments. We also accept all major credit cards.”

Addressing the financial issue clearly and specifically will ensure there are no misunderstandings as well as plenty of options to put your patient at ease about the financial issue. This approach also allows you to avoid inadvertently insulting the patient by assuming that they cannot afford treatment, yet you recognize monetary realities. Most patients will appreciate and respect your candor.

Moreover, when the financial coordinator fully understands how patients can benefit from various financing options, they are well prepared to help the patient logically justify proceeding with treatment. A well-prepared treatment  or financial coordinator who can clearly articulate the various payment choices just may lend a powerful boost to your treatment acceptance numbers.

Finally, remember to regularly reiterate your commitment to offering the patient the best dental care available, regardless of insurance constraints. They will understand that you are fulfilling your obligation as a medical professional, and they will better understand what they cannot expect from their insurance provider.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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