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General Guidelines for Mutual Aid Agreements

Preparing for the Unexpected with a Mutual Aid Agreement
Mutual Aid Agreements

No one ever expects anything to happen to them, especially in the prime of their careers, but if a major illness befalls you, or if you die unexpectedly, what will happen to your practice and your patients? Setting up a mutual aid agreement right now will give you peace of mind that whomever takes over your practice in your time of need will be able to do so legally and seamlessly.

What is a Mutual Aid Agreement? A mutual aid agreement is a formal contract with colleagues whereby in the event of the sudden illness, injury or death of a dentist-signer to such an agreement, the other signers promise to temporarily cover for the stricken colleague until either his/her recovery, or up until the time when a deceased dentist’s practice is sold.

Because of numerous inquiries from dental societies and the membership regarding mutual aid agreements, the Council on Dental Practice in cooperation with the Division of Legal Affairs at the ADA has developed general guidelines to assist in the preparation of such arrangements.

When preparing a mutual aid agreement, the following elements should be considered:

  • Purpose of agreement
  • Who is eligible to participate
  • Term of agreement (number of years or expiration date)
  • How to handle amendments
  • Meetings of participants
  • Expenses
  • Establishing the officers
  • Committees
  • Terms of coverage
  • Statement of services
  • Time commitment
  • Patient and business information confidentiality
  • Guidelines on accepting patients or hiring staff from the stricken dentist’s practice

How to handle billing? A non-paid volunteer dentist working temporarily in the office of a stricken participant in order to complete cases should sign claim forms for any billable service using his/her own name and information. The ADA claim form allows one field for the billing entity and a separate one for the treating dentist. This would allow payments to be sent to the practice of the stricken participant.

For a full description of each of the above elements, ADA members can download the complete document from the ADA’s Council on Dental Practice in the Supporting Materials below.

Non-ADA members may also purchase a downloadable PDF of Guidelines for the Development of Mutual Aid Agreements in Dentistry in the ADA Catalog.