The good news is that there are things you can do to make insurance coverage less of a focus.
But first, I think it’s important to note that while it may seem like “everyone” in your community is insurance-driven—this may not be the case. I have often heard a dentist complain about how their community is very “insurance-driven,” when I happen to know a client in the same community that is very successful as a fee-for-service office and does not struggle with limited insurance benefits or discount plans.
It is true that a lot of patients may say they only want to go with what their insurance covers, but they are most likely saying this based on having been coached to say that in the past either by you, your staff, their HR person, the agent that sold them their insurance, etc.
In fact, most often when a high number of patients are saying, “I only want to do what the insurance covers,” I find that the staff within the office have been unintentionally creating this problem themselves by putting a large focus on insurance.
When you communicate to the patient that their insurance plan is important, directly or indirectly, don’t be surprised when patients start to expect their treatment to be based around their insurance.
So, let’s change the way things are done in your office and get your patients to start thinking differently – and to that end, here are a few ideas:
1. Stop making insurance the top priority in the patient’s mind.
When insurance is always the first question and a big focus is placed on it by your staff, this makes it more important in the patient’s mind.
Obviously, you are going to get the patient’s insurance information, but the way you ask for it makes a difference.
For example, when someone calls the office, it shouldn’t be the first thing you ask for over the phone. The receptionist should start with why the patient is calling, what they’re experiencing, if they’re in pain or discomfort, what their goals for coming in are, etc.
And then when they come in for their appointment, of course you need to take the insurance card or get updated information, but don’t focus on it.
I’ve heard of some offices referring to it as “dental benefits” instead of “insurance.” The reasoning is that many patients mistakenly think dental insurance is comparable to medical insurance, and they do this in an effort to create a distinction in their mind. I’ve never seen the effect of this measured per se – but it’s a thought!
2. Show that you value the patient, not the insurance plan
The most important thing is that you want the patient to feel like you value them, not their insurance plan.
Many of our clients have a ton of loyal out-of-network patients. They simply let the patients know that while they aren’t in-network for their PPO plan, there’s usually not a big difference in cost because if they need a significant amount of work, the benefits aren’t going to cover a huge portion of it anyway. (You’ll want to be able to back that up with actual cost comparisons in case the patient wants to see the prices). Because patients appreciate the level of personal care they receive at this office, they’re willing to stay and pay a little extra out of pocket.
So, take the focus OFF the insurance and put it on the treatment they need and why they need it.
3. How to respond to, “I only want to do what insurance covers.”
Oftentimes, when someone says, “I only want to do what insurance covers,” this is a sort of automatic response they give because they’ve been told to say it. It’s not usually something they actually know enough to have truly thought over or come up with their own determination about. So, you need to have a real discussion with them and educate them on how it works and why.
Finding out what they came in to handle, what their purpose is, why they’re seeing a dentist in the first place, are all important, and ways to focus on treatment rather than insurance. The majority of people will want to be healthy and keep their teeth—insurance usually doesn’t come up when discussing these questions.
If the patient truly is closed on doing the treatment, insurance won’t be a huge issue. It’s simply a matter of ensuring they understand the need and value of the treatment, and then figuring out how they can pay for their portion.
How to get the patient to truly understand the need and value of treatment, and get “closed” on the treatment, is covered at the MGE Communication & Sales Seminars. Dentists that attend see an average increase of $288,000 a year—and learning how to get patients to go above and beyond the insurance benefits for treatment they need is a big key to that.
Now, what if it’s a new patient or an emergency patient and you don’t have a strong relationship with them yet?
If you don’t have enough time to really explain and handle this topic with them, ensure you schedule them to come back for a consult when you have adequate time (ideally, you’d have consult time blocked out in your schedule). And of course, with the emergency, you’d provide whatever emergency care was needed prior to bringing them back for this.
4. Look at your advertising
What are you advertising on your website, postcards, online ads, etc?
It could be that you are specifically advertising in a way that focuses on insurance coverage. I see a lot of advertisements from dentists that prominently feature, “We accept ____, _____, and ____ insurances!”
Instead of featuring the patient’s needs and wants, they feature insurance. This a) attracts some patients specifically because you take their insurance, and b) puts the focus on insurance and tells the patient it’s important.
So you may want to feature the patients needs and how you can help them first and foremost, and then include insurance information less prominently.
5. If you’re not doing any marketing, you probably need to start
If you’re getting most of your new patients from insurance directories, you need to start using other means to attract fee-for-service new patients. Odds are, they do exist in your area, they just haven’t been coming into your office yet.
I highly recommend our virtual CE seminar, the MGE New Patient Workshop, where we’ll give you 20 proven ways to attracting high-quality new patients. We can also help you drop any reduced-fee plans you don’t want to participate with anymore. The workshop is entirely online and you can see upcoming dates here.
6. Consider dropping reduced-fee plans that aren’t profitable for your office
Dropping plans can be scary—can you afford to lose those patients? Surprisingly, in many cases, the answer is yes. Despite losing some patients, the increase in profitability discount plans means you may net the same amount while working less and having a lower overhead.
But you don’t want to go dropping any plans before crunching the numbers. So download the Insurance Plan Analyzer Spreadsheet, which will tell you how a plan is affecting your profitability and whether or not you can afford to drop it.
And of course, any time you’re dropping plans, you’ll want to attract more fee-for-service patients, so again, I recommend attending the New Patient Workshop. It comes with a money-back guarantee for up to 6 months after attending the workshop, so if you don’t get the results you want, you get your money back.
I hope these tips help! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 800-640-1140.