This trend isn’t exactly new but the number of uninsured or under insured patients seeking dental treatment continues to grow, particularly in the older demographic.
According to the American Dental Association, 11% of children 2-18 don’t have benefits, 35% of adults from 19-64 don’t have benefits and 62% of the population over 65 doesn’t have insurance.
And (without getting too political) we know that as we continue to transition into a new presidency, it’s important to remember that the insurance landscape in the dental industry will continue to change. The Affordable Care Act, for example, stipulated that all pediatric insurance plans offered through the ACA must include dental coverage, which has kept the number of children without insurance lower than adults. But as changes to the ACA are made (or if it’s gotten rid of all together) we could have more children who are also coming in for treatment that will need to be paid for out of pocket.
So what does this mean for you, the dentist who treats these uninsured patients? You need to find a way to provide quality service with a cost that isn’t overwhelming for the patient but also doesn’t do unnecessary damage to your bottom line. That’s a pretty tall order. But one that’s necessary to work within the current dental landscape. After all, we are well aware of the importance of taking care of oral health to overall systemic health and should strive to be as helpful as we can to those in need of dental care—whether they’re well insured or not.
Perhaps the most difficult part of treating patients without insurance is simply aiding them in overcoming the fear of treatment cost and actually visiting the dentist. They may want to come in for a cleaning or need help figuring out what is causing tooth pain, but resist treatment as long as possible because they don’t’ know how they’ll pay for it.
To offset these fears make it clear that you have a variety of payment plans to choose from that allow them options besides paying for total cost of the treatment at one time. Credit plans and incremental payment schedules can take a large bill and make it more manageable for patients who only have so much saved up or who can only afford to set aside a certain amount of monthly income for dental treatment payments. These payment options should be shown prominently on your website and on other marketing tactics you use to immediately let patients know that they can visit your practice without worrying about being handed a large bill at the end of the appointment.
In addition, offering specials for patients who pay in advance or who are recurring patients can be just enough of a break to make treatment more affordable. Or add extra value to a regular hygiene appointment by advertising free or discounted add-on treatments like x-rays or fluoride treatments. These small offerings can go a long way to putting the minds of un-or underinsured patients at ease.
It’s inevitable the dental industry will continue to change. And learning how to adapt and thrive within these changes is essential to your practice’s continued growth and success. That means applying some small yet powerful changes to the way you work with patients, like we mentioned above, to stay ahead of the curve and the competition.