These days, it seems like nobody is happy with dental insurance. We’ve criticized it plenty ourselves — echoing complaints from dentists frustrated with declining payouts.
But we want to give insurance a fair shake, too. That’s why we recently spoke with Patrick O’Rourke, a veteran of the industry who has worked for major insurers like Humana and now runs a business called Patient Quotient, which helps providers negotiate fair payment schedules with carriers.
Patrick told us there are several reasons why dentists benefit from taking insurance — even if the insurer pays less than they’d like. Here are the top three.
1. Keep your chairs full
“Number one is to avoid empty chair time,” he said. We hear that. In a dental practice, there’s nothing more expensive than an empty chair, and even doing treatment on a reduced fee schedule is better than nothing at all.
Plus, those insurance patients just might stick around. Once you’ve got a new patient through the door, done great work, and begun to build a relationship, they’ll be much more likely to trust you for more complex needs like cosmetic care.
2. Insurance is also marketing
Patrick noted that there’s also a marketing aspect to being in-network for a carrier.
“It’s not free,” he said — since you’re paying for it in the form of lower fees for your services — but you’ll gain a spot in that insurer’s directory of providers and on their website, which will help get you in front of local patients. They’ll also promote your practice to patients in your area who call them asking for an in-network option.
And you’ll be able to mention that you take insurance on your own website, which will help convert more traffic into phone calls.
3. Insurance patients create non-insurance referrals
Finally, those insurance patients who walk through your doors will refer you to their friends — some of whom will become regular fee-for-service patients.
Per Patrick, “this is the good reason” to take insurance. “You bring out a cost-conscious consumer,” he told us. “And they come in, they have an amazing patient experience, and then they refer to their friends, coworkers, or church congregation.”
In other words, think of your insurance patients as an investment. You’re providing them with discounted service (just like you would with a special offer for a reduced-price cleaning, say) — and in exchange, you’re opening the door to creating a satisfied patient who becomes an evangelist for your practice.
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