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Escaping the hold insurance companies have on your practice

June 1, 2021
If your practice is dependent on dental insurance companies, the future success of your business is in danger. Colin Receveur has some great advice on how to break free.

If your practice is dependent on dental insurance companies, the future success of your business is in danger. As countless independent dentists across the country are coming to realize, the PPO “beast” is becoming a major obstacle to true success.

From influencing treatment options (via the manipulation of reimbursement levels) to taking up your time dealing with administrative issues, the truth about dental insurance is being revealed. And it’s not pretty.

I believe that if you do nothing, you will be forced to work longer and harder just to keep from falling behind. The biggest expense PPOs have is you, and they will do everything to minimize that expense over the long term. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’re an independent dentist, you already know this is happening. You can see it. You can feel it.

Insurance (aka “How to boil a frog dentist”)

This problem didn’t emerge overnight. It developed slowly, almost imperceptibly, and dentists weren’t the first victims. This same process began in the medical world years ago. What was once a profession of virtually guaranteed economic success is now completely controlled by the insurance monster.

Unfortunately, physicians didn’t respond to the threat in time. Time will tell if dentists fare any better. Will they get “boiled,” like a frog who doesn’t realize its fate in a pot of water until it’s too late? Or will dentists take the action required to preserve their future success?

Dentists who accept dental insurance may think they have an edge when it comes to keeping their chairs filled. But keeping your schedule full is not the same as building an extremely profitable practice, and profit is what matters for long-term success.

PPO profits are getting squeezed

PPO profits are down. In response to the pandemic and a series of other factors, the number of active premium payers is declining. As insurance profits get squeezed, companies will do their best to recoup those losses. Guess where they’re going to look for the money?

Their first course of action is to shift more and more of the cost of treatment to the insured. That makes it sound like they’re shifting the costs to normal patients, right? What that’s actually doing is shifting the costs to you. Every dentist who accepts insurance has had patients refuse case solutions simply because their insurance didn’t cover the procedure or enough of the cost.

Worse, insurance companies will continue to dictate what dentists can charge for their services. Do you want to be told how much you’re worth? That’s exactly what’s happening. And the problem is only going to grow.

A solution for proactive dentists

If you don’t want your future success limited by insurance companies, it’s time to take action to end PPO dependence. Only then can you break the artificial limits to your profit and build true success. 

SmartBox’s research indicates that, in the vast majority of markets, some 20–40% of dental prospects have the ability to pay out of pocket for dental care. In some markets, the percentage is even higher. With that kind of potential patient base, limiting dental insurance acceptance is not only possible, it’s highly advisable.

How to break free

The first step is to commit to attracting the most profitable patients in your area. For most practices, this will mean strategically transforming all public-facing marketing efforts—the practice website, social media, paid media, newsletter, text reminders, letters, and even the on-hold messaging.

Everything must work in concert to position you and your practice as the only logical choice for high-value patients. Why? Because the vast majority of dental patients don’t have the knowledge to evaluate differences in the quality of their dental care; they’re far more concerned with overall patient experience and achieving the results they want.

The second step is to choose exactly what kinds of cases you enjoy. Make sure your most glowing testimonials and reviews—ones relevant to the procedures you want to focus on—are front and center on your website and in your social media.

Patients research dentists online, and they trust reviews and testimonials from disinterested parties as much or more than they trust word-of-mouth recommendations. If you don’t have enough of those specific reviews, you can reach out to existing patients.

Do not leave this up to chance. Instead, strategically engineer the results you want. You are telling a story to prospective patients. It’s your job to make sure that story is the one that attracts the patients you want to treat.

If you’re permitted to do so by your state, consider incentivizing those patients to provide testimonials. Just make sure the patients focus on how their lives have been improved by choosing you to solve their particular dental problems. “Everybody here is wonderful!” reviews are nice and necessary, but they won’t get you more fee-for-service patients.

Dentists who implement a strategy to move toward fee-for-service will experience a much brighter future. Ask yourself: Do you want to work more for less, or do you want to take the steps required to magnify the profitability of your practice?

The choice is yours.

COLIN RECEVEUR is the CEO and founder of SmartBox Dental, a dedicated dental practice growth firm that has helped thousands of dentists grow their practices and succeed on their own terms. The author of numerous books on dental practice growth, he has also written the free report, Busting out of the PPO prison: The 4-part strategy for declaring your independence from the insurance beast before it’s too late! Reach him at [email protected] or (502) 443-1082.

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