The prospect of going to the dentist can give even the bravest souls an unwelcome dose of anxiety, as we spent some time reflecting on in our last blog. Not least among the reasons for this is the question of cost. At BSDA, we think that there is a severe lack of frank conversations about this issue. Friends deserve honesty from each other, and to be honest, we think that there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about the costs and the benefits of dentistry, especially dental insurance. So we’d like to open the black box of dental insurance and let some fresh air in. If you don’t have dental insurance right now or pay for coverage out of your own pocket, this blog is especially for you. First, let’s dispel a few shadows or misconceptions.
Misconception 1: Dental care without insurance will financially ruin you.
Everybody knows that if you don’t have medical insurance and you end up in the hospital, the costs can run up so quickly that you find yourself declaring bankruptcy before you are back on your feet. That’s a fact. Due to the medical advances of the past century, the things we can treat and the comfort we can enjoy while being treated are nearly miraculous, but they do not come cheap. This isn’t the time or place to explore the strange relationships between medical innovation and insurance companies, but suffice it to say, that you do not want to end up at the doctor without some sort of medical coverage.
But that is just not the case at the dentist!
Dental care and “general” medical care are actually different realms of medicine with very different economics. Of course, a trip to the dentist is not a trip to the corner store for a gallon of milk. There are a lot of highly trained people working with state-of-the-art equipment taking care of you at the dentist; this all costs money. But within the realm of dental care, the vast majority of procedures that people generally require don’t cost anywhere near the kind of costs that occur at a hospital. It is not even in the same ballpark! Moreover, most dental care doesn’t end up requiring specialists, MRIs, biopsies, nights in a hospital bed being treated by nurses, and the like. Mostly, it’s an hour in the chair and off you go, sometimes with a couple of follow-up visits to finish the procedures. The costs just don’t skyrocket in dentistry like they do in other fields of medicine. While we may be talking about thousands of dollars sometimes, we’re never talking about hundreds of thousands.
This is so important to share with you because many people stay away from the dentist because they fear that if they go, they’ll never be able to afford what needs to be done and they’d rather not know. Sadly many problems that could be nipped in the bud, if left to get worse, do get worse and end up costing more down the road. So don’t let the prospect of cost keep you away!
Misconception 2: Dental Insurance saves you money.
If you’re paying for your own dental coverage you might be tempted to think, “OK I’ve got that fixed cost covered! I’ll pay my deductibles and the insurance will cover the rest, no matter what happens this year.” Sadly there is a key element of dental plans that is easy to overlook, the dreaded maximum benefit line. Most policies have a very strict and, sadly for you, low maximum benefit they will pay out per year. And strangely enough on many policies, that line is basically what you pay in premiums! So you can very easily end up maxing out the limit and have to pay the rest. Your net gain in the end may be a free cleaning. This is a tough pill to swallow! Most of us think that insurance means that we all pay into a pool and those of us that need more care than the average are covered. But as we said above, the economics of dental care just don’t work in the same way.
Our Alternative Offer
If your employer pays for a platinum policy, by all means, USE IT! But for everyone else, paying for insurance may not be the most economical option. That’s why we offer a totally different approach, we call it our Dental Savings Plan. It is designed to save you money, encourage you to get the care you need, and cut out the hassle and meddling of the insurance company middle-man.
First, saving you money.
The Savings Plan is simple, you pay a flat fee per year that gets you all of your routine visits, one emergency visit, cleanings, and x-rays. On top of that, you get a discount on any care that is needed beyond that. As we said above, even with insurance, in the end, you end up paying for most of your care, so why not get it at a discount?
Second, getting you the care you need.
We find that our Dental Savings Plan customers are some of our most regular and enthusiastic ones, not because they just happen to like the dentist, but because, if you pay for something intentionally up front, you’re more likely to use it! A patient once told us that he likes to pay for his piano lessons up front, one year at a time, to discourage himself from quitting during the year. This works in the same way. What’s more, a paradox of dental insurance is that many people sit on their plans and never use them. Fears of having to pay extra, not really being sure of what their benefits are, and worries about billing keep them away. But if you’ve paid for two cleanings, exams, and x-rays, why not use them?
And as for worries that going to the dentist will end you up finding problems that need care, even if you do, we take care of them together at a pace you can afford and are comfortable with. And what’s more, after we get things in good shape, the fact that you are now coming to see us regularly will keep you on the right track and, in the end, needing less care. Funny how that works, the more you come and see us, the less you’ll need to see us!
Third, cutting out the middleman.
We really are not the biggest fans of the insurance industry, as you might have guessed. One of the reasons for that is that it can be a real hassle processing claims. You don’t see this side of the work, but each claim takes time to process, sometimes even a few hours of one of our staff’s time for a single claim. Our staff need to be paid by someone, so it has to be included in what we bill to the insurance company. Instead, with our Dental Savings Plan, you come get the care you need, pay us for it, and what would have gone to the insurance company is given to you as a discount. It’s a win-win for everyone.
But more importantly, often the insurance companies end up getting in the way of good care since often it is only the work that they will agree to pay for that gets done. That means that the insurance company is deciding on treatment plans, not the patient and the doctor together.
By removing this administrative monster, we are able to offer our patients reduced fees and put the relationship back to where it belongs – between dentist and patient.
Is it for you?
If you’ve got a plan from your employer that works, by all means keep it. If you’ve got the kind of teeth that end you up needing major work done multiple times a year, maybe a good insurance plan is what you need. But for a large majority of people who need preventative care, regular check ups, and the occasional filling or crown, we are convinced that this is far and away the better path to take.
We made this plan because we saw a real need in our patient’s lives and we think it solves it well, not only for their wallets but for their dental health too.
After all, that’s what friends are for.
Check out the nuts and bolts on our website.