Even before COVID-19, approximately 74 million Americans were without dental insurance. And in the wake of the pandemic’s massive effect on the job market, it is estimated that another six million have lost dental coverage. That means if an uninsured patient is in your chair, they are likely paying out of pocket.
Unfortunately, that cost is one of the biggest barriers of entry for most uninsured patients. In a study conducted by the American Dental Association, it was discovered that 43.8% of uninsured patients will not go to the dentist in the next 12 months because of cost. Meanwhile, 38.9% believe their mouth is healthy and a visit to the dentist isn’t necessary.
This all boils down to accessibility. If the dentist is seen as a more achievable goal for patients, and not just someone they see when there is an absolute emergency, they are more likely to prioritize their oral health. One strategy to help these patients is the implementation of a dental membership plan.
In short, a dental membership plan allows dentists to perform services for enrollees at either a specified discounted price or discount their usual charge. For a low annual or monthly membership fee, patients can have access to a menu of discounted services and procedures without the limits of deductibles, waiting periods or annual maximums brought on by traditional insurance.
And you don’t have to do it alone. While you can certainly implement an in-house membership program, utilizing a network to carry your dental membership card will ease the burden on front office staff, thanks to the added perk of no claims processing.
If a dental membership plan is a strategy you are considering for your uninsured patients, here are the three things you need to know.
Patients without insurance still value and want dental care
First and foremost, it is important to note that not having dental insurance doesn’t mean the patient is ambivalent about oral health. In fact, according to recent market research completed by Finch Brands, patients without dental insurance still greatly value their oral health:
To top it all off, 89% of uninsured patients are interested in a dental membership plan, but it must be affordable, simple and, most of all, transparent. That last one is most important of all and leads us to our second point:
Transparency is essential
Few things frustrate a patient more than complicated terms and surprise costs. Therefore, it is important to earn your patient’s trust by making the terms easy to understand and ensure that all costs are readily available and understood by the patient. Make sure they are aware of:
Compassionate billing keeps patients coming back
Without insurance to help itemize services and their respective coverage, staring at a lump sum bill can be an incredibly stressful experience for patients. By breaking the cost of service into payments rather than one large bill, you are meeting the patient where they are and showing you are willing to work with them.
Compassionate billing complements a dental membership program well because it offers a range of value for the patient. This helps build trust and loyalty, which is more likely to bring these patients back in for routine exams and other essential care. Cash pay patients are also beneficial to have in your billing mix: since there is no need to wait for insurance claims to process, the dental office can be paid right away.
The bottom line: Patients without dental insurance still want dental care as long as it is affordable and accessible. When offering a dental membership program, make sure the terms are easy to understand and that the costs are transparent. Meeting your patients where they are with compassionate billing helps build trust and loyalty and complements a dental membership program strategy.