You work incredibly hard, so it’s frustrating when your compensation doesn’t equal the effort you put in. If you want to improve the outcomes in your practice, you need to improve the conditions, and one method of doing so is making sure you’re billing your full fee. Many dentists think they’re billing their full fee, but they’re not, and it harms their ability to make decisions about their practice.
Your Work Has Value
The most important reason to bill your full fee is to show your patients the full value of your dentistry because if you don’t show them what it costs, they won’t know. As Kirk says, “Money invested in dentistry is one of the best investments a human being can make,” but when they see the PPO fee or the discounts you offer, they’re going to think that’s normal and then make up their own numbers in their head, devaluing your service. This leads to trouble down the road when you decide to go out-of-network because patients will suddenly see a higher number and assume that you’ve just tripled the price of your crowns. When you bill your full fee, your patients get used to seeing it and understand that the reduced price they’ve been paying is the result of their insurance plan.
Avoid the Mess
A lot of dentists don’t bill their full fee because they think it’s easier to use the PPO fees, and in fact, the practice management software will try to tell you to do that. The logic is that when insurance pays, you won’t have to do individual write-offs, but it’s much easier to make mistakes that will cost you time and money. I’ve seen many dentists give back refunds to patients that weren’t deserved because they were doing multiple write-offs and they didn’t know how to read the EOB or the ledger. Working with insurance can be messy, which is why you need to keep it simple and bill the full fee. After the insurance check comes in, you can then make the appropriate write-off with the knowledge that everything is correct. It may seem like this method is more time-consuming, but it saves time in the long run because you’re not going back and auditing accounts later—it’s just one and done.
Put it in Practice
Billing your full fee will make an incredible difference, and with a little work, you can get started immediately!
- Make sure your claims are being sent with the full fee. Check the settings in your practice management software for a checkbox that will automatically send your full fee on your insurance claims. The amazing thing about this is it’s something you can change immediately without affecting anything in your software.
- Show your full fee on your ledger. This is also a checkbox in your practice management software, but it’s a little more complex because you’ll have to go in and make sure it’s giving accurate treatment estimates to patients, which you can do based on the PPO fee schedule. The important thing to remember is that this is a change that will be visible to patients, so I don’t recommend doing it right away without first communicating about the change.
- Keep up with your fee schedule. Check them at least once a year to make sure they’re up to date because while billing your full fee is important, you also want that fee to accurately reflect the value of the treatment provided.
- Work with your team. You can take all of these steps, but if the team doesn’t follow through with them, it won’t make a difference. Interacting with patients can be the most difficult part of this, but the admin team must be resolute and not project their own feelings, because feeling bad about the fee or assuming a patient cannot pay it will get them nowhere. We must never make assumptions about what someone can pay because we don’t know them, so just assume everyone can pay—they’ll tell you differently if they can’t. In that case, come back with solutions to help make it work, such as using a payment plan or pushing out the payment so it falls on a paycheck period. When it comes to interacting with patients, the free Say This, Not That document is a goldmine.
- Don’t be the limiting factor. The admin team aren’t the only ones who deal with patients, and in my experience, it’s often the dentist who is problematic when it comes to billing the full fee. I’ve had so many dentists tell me they want to give patients discounts because they feel bad, but again, you have to value your own work. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t expect to receive a discount—you pay the value that is shown.
Remember, you have to take it step by step, because you can’t go in with the mindset that you’re going to bill your full fee and immediately become a millionaire. Sit down with your team and explain why you want to make this change, how it will affect them, and what you can do to help them. Involve them in the process, and it will go much more smoothly. Any time you’re making a change like this, I recommend involving a coach, so schedule a call with ACT today and get the expert advice of our team! It will take time, but eventually, you’ll start collecting more, working less, and attracting a different kind of patient. The positive impact will be incredible, and you’ll be one step closer to a Better Practice, and a Better Life!
Ariel Juday is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental