4 mistakes made with in-house discount plans

In-house discount plans are becoming increasingly common as dentists attempt to bring uninsured patients back for regular dental care. Patients appreciate the savings they receive as plan members, and dental offices improve profitability with higher recare rates, increased case acceptance, and a marketing tool to attract new patients into the practice. With these benefits, in-house discount plans seem like a win-win, but dental offices often experience so-so results due to a few common mistakes.

BY Jen McGuire

In-house discount plans are becoming increasingly common as dentists attempt to bring uninsured patients back for regular dental care. Patients appreciate the savings they receive as plan members, and dental offices improve profitability with higher recare rates, increased case acceptance, and a marketing tool to attract new patients into the practice. With these benefits, in-house discount plans seem like a win-win, but dental offices often experience so-so results due to a few common mistakes.

1. No team training

Training for the team is critical to in-house discount plan success. When potential new patients call for an appointment or to learn more about your office and fees, the person answering the phone should be trained to lead this conversation to your in-house discount plan and succinctly explain the plan benefits to the caller.

What happens when an insurance patient loses his or her benefits? Instead of cancelling a scheduled appointment, the team should be trained to present your insurance alternative. Given the prevalence of dental insurance, patients have been conditioned to skip the dentist when they don't have insurance. Scripting should be used to explain to patients that preventive care is even more important without dental insurance, so they can avoid the need for more expensive restorative care later.

The hygienist and assistant should be trained to reference the plan in the operatory when cash patients ask if the prescribed treatment is truly needed. When patients question the need for prescribed work, it often reflects their concerns about cost. Since patients trust the opinions of your team, your team can reinforce the need for treatment and recommend joining the discount plan to reduce the cost.

2. No marketing

Training your team to answer questions is a great start, but you still need people to call and ask the questions. If you expect potential new patients to stumble upon a plan hidden on the payment page of your website, the calls probably aren't going to start flooding in. Determine a strategy for marketing your plan outside your existing patient base. A direct-mail campaign to consumers in your zip code may be effective, but you can maximize your efforts by targeting local small businesses, which often do not have the resources to offer comprehensive benefits to their employees. Approach businesses with approximately 25 employees or less to offer their employees your savings plan. Employers can offer direct reimbursement for your in-house discount plan to provide patients with preventive dental care - often for less than the cost of dental insurance.

3. No fee balancing

You shouldn't rely on guesswork when determining the pricing for your plan. If you haven't balanced your fees in the last two years, start there. After your fees reflect your desired position in the marketplace, you should determine an appropriate plan fee. Most plans have discounts of roughly 15% to provide an incentive for patients to join but allow the practice to maintain a profit that is significantly higher than what can be obtained from most preferred provider organization (PPO) contracts.

4. No research

Each state has its own regulations pertaining to in-house discount plans. In some states, plans are regulated by the insurance commissioner, whereas in other states, they are categorized as "discount plans" or "prepaid plans" that require registration with the state or another organization. Due to state requirements, you may need to submit a copy of your plan and marketing materials for approval.

In addition to government requirements, your ability to offer a discount plan may be restricted by contracts with insurance companies. A common insurance clause requires you to accept the lower amount between the stated fee schedule and your published fees. Have an attorney review your insurance contracts and state requirements to advise you prior to implementing your in-house discount plan.

Avoid the mistakes above to successfully implement your in-house discount plan and increase the practice's profitability. For more help creating and implementing an in-house discount plan, visit HenryScheinBusinessSolutions.com.


With more than a decade of marketing experience in the health-care industry, Jen McGuire now leads the marketing of Henry Schein Dental's Business Solutions. As part of this offering, Jen developed and launched dentistry's first wellness program, Total HealthTM Beyond the Mouth. Contact her at (800) 372-4346 or at jen.mcguire@henryschein.com. Learn more at www.HenryScheinBusinessSolutions.com.

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