Just When You Thought You Had Seen the Worst

Theresa Duncan from Odyssey Management has been one of the top 25 women in Dentistry, and for over 20 years, she has advised dental offices on how to correctly use insurance to their advantage and how to carry out a conversation about insurance.

Why? Because one of the biggest barriers to patient conversion is fear about how much it is going to cost.

Her book, ‘Moving Patients To YES!‘, doesn’t help only insurance dependent dental offices. It also helps insurance independent or blended practices have easier conversations about nonparticipation and out-of-network services.

The latest trends she is reporting will set you on the edge of your seat, because just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it has. And, this brings us back to the consideration that nonparticipation or getting off of plans might be best for you.

In a recent conversation, Duncan reported there are big changes being made in plan designs and how patients are getting their information. The plans are so difficult to understand that the front office of the dental practice is put in the spot of having to translate them. Patients get their plans and don’t understand what they mean. The plans are confusing even to professional insurance coordinators.

Patients are paying more for their benefits, so they are expecting to get more, which is unfortunate because dentists can’t deliver more. Duncan is seeing a lot more deductibles. The upshot is that more employees are opting out of dental benefits.

Dental practices, especially solo practices, now have less power to negotiate with insurance plans.

In the last twenty years, dentists have gone from “laughing at plans to getting on plans,” even rushing to get on them. And then, reimbursement got pushed down. The average dentist (according to the last ADA numbers) will participate in 8 to 10 plans, but Duncan sees the trend is now swinging back towards being selective and getting off of plans. Many dental offices are happy being in 3 to 4 plans. They don’t want to deal with plans that are costing them too much in revenue and time.

If you drop plans (or have never participated in plans), it doesn’t mean you lose patients, says Duncan. It means your team needs to be highly skilled at having conversations with patients when the topic of insurance arises.

Deborah Bush, MA

Deb Bush was the Communications Manager for The Pankey Institute from 1997 to 2003, and a consulting marketing and educational writer for the Institute through 2009. After completing graduate school at the University of Michigan, in 1976, she began a long career in technical writing and knowledge translation in the fields of environmental impact, econometrics and finance, CAD/CAM engineering, accounting and taxation, medicine and dentistry. Currently, she is the Director of Content for Patient Prism Academy (at www.patientprism.com) and will always be a raving fan of The Pankey Institute.

Deborah Bush, MA

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