To accept insurance or not to accept insurance – that is the question.
There are a host of challenges presented in deciding to accept insurance in the practice. Even in difficult financial times, insurance is not the only way to fill those holes in the appointment book. In fact, there are many more pitfalls of accepting insurance than actual upsides, and more importantly, there are other options out there that can help to increase new patient flow and foster the feeling of being “busy” — without giving up control of the practice’s fees to third parties.
Reason #1: Collections issues with insurance
Offering insurance inevitably leads you down the road of what most practices would consider a collections nightmare. Most practice management consultants would recommend a 95-98% collections rate. This is hard enough to achieve if you don’t bill insurance, but becoming a provider for insurance plans just makes maintaining this goal impossible.
Reason #2: Loss of control of your fee structure
There are enough pressures on an independent dental practice without having to bend to the will of insurance companies and reduce your UCRs to their liking. Kind of defeats the purpose of being in private practice and the free market economy if you can’t even set your own prices!
Reason #3: Decrease in patient perception of “quality”
One of the things we hate most about going to the MD is the wait. Patients with appointments often find themselves waiting up to an hour while the MD has to see 10 patients per hour just to afford his or her overhead.
Why would a dentist ever want to emulate a medical practice? That’s fine if you want a volume-based drill and fill operation, but not if you want to continue to have your practice project an image that can continue to attract and retain patients who want comprehensive care.
Reason #4: Why offer a permanent discount?
What is an insurance company? Basically, it’s a marketing scheme. In return for them filling your appointment book, you agree to discount your services to the people they send. Forever. There are much more effective, measurable, and less expensive ways to market your dental practice than offering a permanent discount. So many dentists balk at offering a low or no-charge evaluation, but then sign up as a preferred provider for 4 or 5 different PPOs…
Reason #5: There are other options, e.g. in-house dental savings plans like QDP
Quality Dental Plan is an in-house dental savings plan that dentists can offer to their patients as an alternative to dental insurance. There is an annual enrollment fee, which is paid directly to the practice and includes all of the patient’s preventive care for the year, so the dentist gets prepaid at the beginning of the year on all of those services. In return, those patients have one low annual fee that is often a fraction of an annual dental insurance premium. There’s no third party involvement, dentists get to set and collect their own annual enrollment fees and stay in charge of their own fee schedules as well.
Insurance is not the only option for dentists looking to stay afloat during the down economic times. Often, insurance causes more problems than it solves for dentists and their staff. Alternatives to insurance exist, and actually serve both patients and doctors in a more effective way.