Will more patients be without dental insurance in 2021?


No recent memory Has the dental industry experienced the degree of disruption it faced in 2020. Dental offices across the country have had to close, and dental patients have also faced difficult circumstances. Their employers have been hit by the pandemic, and many companies have been forced to issue time off, layoffs and / or cut employee benefits. As a result, many people in our communities and patient bases have found themselves without dental insurance. This is an issue that we all must overcome in the coming year, an issue that my practice is addressing by developing a personalized dental membership plan.

The story of Solomon Family Dentistry

In difficult times like these, I am fortunate to practice dentistry to provide people with the care they need to stay healthy. Inspired by my father, who was also a dentist, I entered the dental profession in 2007. Today I practice in the same family dental practice that my father founded in 1979. At that time he was a solo practitioner who opened his business. out of a desire to help the people of Summerville, South Carolina. He kept his office doors open to patients six days a week, which was rare at the time. It is his example of true dedication that has shaped my personal mission to help patients. Like my father, I also work six days a week at Solomon Family Dentistry. Over the years, the practice has grown and now has six sites with 18 dentists and 160 employees.

It is the philosophy of our patient-centered practice that led us to offer the Solomon Savers Discount Plan, a dental membership plan through Launch Loyalty powered by Careington, a company that also dates back to 1979 and is owned by a dentist. . Launch Loyalty worked with our practice to design a personalized internal dental membership plan that works best for our patient base.

Reduce patient dental costs

Recognizing the negative impact that a lack of dental insurance is having on the dental and overall health of patients, I wanted to offer our patients an incentive to seek the dental treatment they really need. Our uninsured patients came to our office when they had mouth pain or a dental problem, but they were reluctant to pay for x-rays or exams to determine the underlying problem. They did so for fear of the high cost of the proceedings. So we decided that our membership plan would offer our cash-paying patients two free cleanings, two exams and two x-rays per year, as well as discounts on other dental treatments.

We began offering the Solomon Savers Discount Plan to meet the needs of our uninsured and underinsured patients who wanted to meet their oral health needs but had fixed budgets. By offering free exams and x-rays, patients learned what treatment was needed. By not paying for these services, they were able to use their finances for their dental procedures.

Our uninsured and underinsured patients are now much more willing to seek treatment using the enrollment approach. Additionally, we have found that patients who purchase the plan stay in the office longer.

The effect of COVID-19

The pandemic has affected virtually every industry, and dentistry is no exception. The costs of practicing dentistry have increased due to new infection control measures and personal protective equipment requirements. However, production has declined in many cases due to social distancing and a loss of insurance benefits due to rising unemployment. In fact, the unemployment rate hit 14.7% during the pandemic, the highest rate since the Great Depression.1 This increase in unemployment is expected to result in the loss of more than 16 million Americans of employer-sponsored dental insurance.2

It is expected that with an increase in the number of people who do not have access to dental insurance through employers, the average dental office is likely to experience a decrease in preventive care, including check-ups. and exams. On the other hand, an increase in major procedures, such as tooth extractions and root canals is expected.

COVID-19 provides another reason to delay or avoid routine oral care. A study by the American Dental Association has indicated that a decrease in routine dental care services is to be expected in the early stages of the pandemic, followed by a period of reduction in more expensive services as the pandemic continues. .3 Looking ahead, dental claims are expected to decline over the next three years, including a 34% drop this year, a 7% drop next year, and a 5% drop the following year.4

Success with our dental membership plan

Our practice has seen a significant increase in the number of patients who no longer have dental insurance from their employer due to job loss. Many patients are strapped for cash and naturally delay dental treatment. I think dental membership plans are particularly vital these days, benefiting dental practices by attracting patients who otherwise might not need dental treatment, while at the same time benefiting from dental care. patients who pay in cash by offering significant savings and reducing barriers to seeking treatment.

Dental membership plans could be particularly useful for dental offices after the pandemic, as studies indicate that about 83% of consumers are likely to stay in a dental office that has an internal dental membership plan. Additionally, existing patients typically spend around 31% more than new patients.5

If you are considering setting up a dental membership plan for your practice, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a program. We find it extremely valuable to work with a company that not only offers a private label plan that meets the needs of our customer base, but also handles the administration of the plan so that we can focus on patient care. .

Administering the plan can be costly and time consuming. Dental offices should ensure that the company they choose for their plan provides the following key areas of program administration:

  • Legal and Compliance—It is essential to ensure that your plan is compliant at the federal and state levels. Many administrators in the market do not offer plan compliance, leaving a practice with expensive legal fees.
  • Automated billing—It is difficult to manage billing and patient renewals. Working with an administrator who ensures payment information is stored in a compliant manner allows us to automatically collect plan fees upon renewal.
  • Coaching-Having your staff adequately trained on your program helps a lot. This ensures that they are well prepared to speak with patients about the value of the plan. Our administrator provides continuing education to our staff through webinars, videos and meetings to discuss program performance strategies.
  • Marketing-Personalized marketing communications help raise awareness and engage new, existing and dormant patients. In fact, I think the marketing support we receive for our program has been invaluable and has been instrumental in the great success of our plan.
  • Customer service-Providing quality customer support is the key to program satisfaction. Our patients can speak with a representative five days a week, so our staff don’t have to spend time answering patient questions related to the plan.
  • Custom Website—A dental membership plan website personalized for your practice allows your patients to get detailed information about the program.
  • Registration and retention—It is important to provide multiple enrollment options for your patients. Our patients can enroll at any time through our plan website or over the phone through the help of a call center. Our administrator can even help patients with renewal and payment method issues, which goes a long way in helping retention.

Choose the right administrator

Finding the right administrator for a dental membership plan is an important part of solving the challenges facing dentists today. Do not try to manage the administration yourself; leave it to the experts.

Working with an administrator is cheaper, less risky, and hassle free. At Solomon Family Dentistry, we were happy to find a company that ticked all the boxes. With our program through Launch Loyalty, time consuming and expensive administration is handled for us, allowing us to focus on patient care. Launch Loyalty even showed us the value of including other discounts in a dental membership plan, such as vision care, LASIK and prescriptions. With the launch of our program, we have seen an increase in acceptance of the patient treatment plan, an increase in the number of new patients and greater loyalty from existing patients. In addition to benefiting our practice, we can proudly say that offering a dental membership plan provides tremendous value to our patients by providing much-needed savings on dental treatments.

As COVID-related uncertainty persists over the future of dentistry, we look forward to continuing to provide this valuable money-saving solution to our patients, so they don’t have to worry. expensive dental care.

The references

1. Agarwal S, Sommers B. Insurance coverage after job loss – the importance of ACA during the recession associated with COVID. N English J Med. 2020; 383: 1603–1606.
2. Choi SE, Simon L, Reidy CA, Barrow JR. Modeling the impact of COVID-19 on dental insurance coverage and use. J Dent Res. August 28, 2020. doi.org/10.1177/0022034520954126
3. COVID-19: Economic impact on dental practices. American Dental Association. March 23, 2020. https://surveys.ada.org/results/public/YWRhc3VydmV5cy1VUl81aUlYMUVTTUh2Y0NSVU4tNWU3Yjg1YTJlOTQ5N2QwMDE2MjdkZmRh#/pages/Page_ac72bbd-943e25
4. Bell A. COVID-19 Could Reduce Spending On Dental Services For 3 Years: Actuaries. Think advise. April 14, 2020. https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2020/04/14/covid-19-may-cut-dental-services-spending-for-3-years-actuaries/
5. How to improve your customer loyalty program. 360 loyalty. April 2, 2020. https://loyalty360.org/content-gallery/research-and-reports/how-to-uplevel-your-customer-loyalty-program

JASON SOLOMON, DMD, practice at Solomon Family Dentistry, which is based in Summerville, South Carolina. Visit his practice site at solomonddentiste.com.


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