Carrying balances with carriers is finally paying off! Most dentists “accept assignment” (allow 30 days for insurance to pay their share), and 85% of dentists are in-network with a preferred provider organization (PPO). Although production has slowed, it’s a great time to look at what is collectible now.
Pull your insurance and patients accounts receivable reports. How much money is on paper versus in your bank account? For the first time, this can be a positive. With COVID-19 keeping most of us from producing, having collectible money on the books can help us maintain some of our cash flow during this pandemic.
Most insurance carriers are not closing; in fact, some are easier to reach now owing to practices not being open. Take advantage of this time. If your team is off, outsource these collections temporarily. Know your legal rights and hold the carriers responsible. If the carrier attachments were not received and your clearinghouse report tells you differently, conference call them both and fix the issue. Sometimes there is a glitch that needs to be reset to fix the problem for this as well as future claims.
Are you in-network with any carriers? Use this to your advantage. Reach out and see what they have to offer you during this crisis. I am seeing a lot of third-party carriers that are allowing you to receive up to 50% of average weekly claims payments accrued over six weeks.
These are advanced lump-sum payments that are interest-free, absent an event of default, and will be repaid over time and are not due for a couple of months. Ask what your PPO can do for you.
Patient accounts receivable can be a little more sensitive now with unemployment at an all-time high, although avoiding it puts you and the patient at a disservice. Show that you are not heartless and want to help them not get further behind. Carrying their balance has now become an expected part of your monthly cash flow, so you need to kindly make them aware of their responsibilities.
Come up with a positive script that shows the patients that you care and that it benefits them to keep their account current. For the accounts not paying anything, create a lower threshold for your team to offer on the amount expected. For instance, if your minimum payment has been 20% of the account balance, lower it some, maybe to 10% or 15%. Reducing the amount expected for patients not paying anyway will make the conversation with the patient positive and show that you are concerned about them.
For example: “Hi, this is _____ with _____. I certainly hope this call finds you and your family in good health. To help our patients during these troubling times, we are reaching out to discuss a reasonable way you can take care of your balance. Since we may have a little more extra time, this may be a good time to discuss your options."
Offer interest-free loans using an outside lending agency that helps you get your payment in your bank account within 48 hours. The extended payment plans will most likely lower the payments for the patient, helping them out while getting you paid now. Offer “pay now” buttons on your website. It is easy and fast to create, gives a lot of flexibility to your patients, and allows your team not have to have credit cards on file, especially while working from home.
Set your practice up to be more profitable when you reopen, and with a lot fewer accounts receivable. Take advantage of your memberships, like that with the American Dental Association. I find that most of my clients are not aware of the many services offered to them through their membership.
Maintaining your dental practice during COVID-19 will be a challenge, but it is doable. Do not let the emotional stress of finances challenge your physical health. Sure, we would like to be making appointments with our patients versus our bankers and accountants, but physical health needs to be our main concern. Keep some of your cash flow coming in while working aging reports now.
You can come out of this crisis stronger than you were before.
About the author
Ms. Icenogle is the founder of Insurance Billing Outsourcing, providing medical and dental insurance services to dentists. She was a practice manager in the oral and maxillofacial surgery field for more than 30 years and is certified in dental and medical coding. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.