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Episode #500: Solving the “Do You Take My Insurance?” Question, with The ACT Dental 

the best practices show podcast Nov 18, 2022

You get the dreaded question, “Do you take my insurance?” Your skin crawls, your palms sweat, and you don't know how to respond. But after today’s first official edition of Say This, Not That, you and your team will know exactly what to say and how to say it. Kirk Behrendt and his awesome ACT team share their expertise and advice to help you answer with confidence. To learn how to become a more confident, positive, and effective communicator, listen to Episode 500 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

Don't let the question bother you — most patients don't know what to ask.

Find the right verbiage to tell patients what's true and helpful.

Always start by building a relationship with the patient.

Never be the one to ask what insurance they have.

Change your practice by changing your mindset.

Words, and how you say them, matters.


“Surround yourself with great people, because your life gets better.” (2:48—2:50) -Kirk

“I believe — we all believe, here at ACT — what we say matters. Words matter. Words carry weight. The way we communicate with each other, with our patients, it changes our days.” (3:49—4:02) -Jenni

“Your ability to communicate as a team is going to determine how far you go in dentistry. So, lean into learning about how to communicate.” (4:49—4:56) -Kirk

“If they're saying something without even getting their name first, you've got to start there. You need to start building a relationship with that patient over the phone first. In this life, we are human first. We need to make sure that we are getting their name and understanding a little bit about them before we jump into those hard-to-answer questions.” (6:19—6:41) -Heather

“Team members are so frustrated with this question. Just remember, patients are asking this question, oftentimes, because they don't know what else to ask. They believe it’s the only question to ask. So, encourage all of our team members, ‘Don't be mad. Don't be upset when this question comes. Just realize, hey, patients are asking it because they think it’s the best question.’ We’re going to guide them with some other questions to, like Heather said, begin building relationships, building rapport, the things that are going to set you apart. This is like that big boulder. Set it aside. Don't be mad at it. Don't let it start the call off with frustration. Just say, ‘I knew it was coming. Let's move on.’” (7:12—8:00) -Jenni

“Whoever is asking the question is controlling the conversation. Not in a weird way, but you're guiding the conversation. If the patient is asking all the questions, they're guiding the entire conversation. You want to thoughtfully lead the conversation. The best way to do that is with questions.” (8:13—8:26) -Kirk

“Patients, like Jenni said, they don't know what to ask. And if the answer is that you are not on the list, that doesn't mean that they aren't going to come. So, that point of asking more questions to understand more, and go into it with the attitude that, ‘This is a great place to be,’ no matter what the answer is, people are still going to come here and want to be a patient here.” (8:41—8:59) -Robyn

“You don't know how to help them if you don't know why they called. So, when you ask, even on our document, the first question suggestion there is, ‘Oh, it sounds like you're looking for a new dentist.’ ‘Yeah. Somebody told me I need to have an implant.’ Now, you're getting some more information and you can cater your solutions to the problem that they have. And to Robyn’s point, it doesn't necessarily mean that if the answer is no that they're not going to come here. Chances are, if they need an implant, it doesn't matter where they go. They're going to exhaust that insurance anyway. So, I think it’s really good to find out as much information as you can so that you can provide them solutions to their questions.” (10:03—10:48) -Christina

“I think, in dentistry, we get all hot and bothered about this question. And piggybacking on what Jenni said, the reason the patient is asking it in the first place is we’ve been trained through medical insurance that, ‘We can only go to doctors that take our insurance.’ And in dentistry, it’s totally different. So, like Jenni said, don't be so bothered by the question.” (11:07—11:29) -Dr. Straub

“Assume that the patient knows almost nothing about dental insurance and how it actually works. So, there's not a hidden agenda to that question. The patient is simply saying, ‘I have insurance. I'd like to utilize it. I've heard that you're a good dentist. I want to come to you.’ And so, it’s so easy to set that boulder aside and say, ‘As a fee-for-service dentist, we work with most insurances. I will find that out for you. But first, I need to find out a little bit more about you. One, what is your name? Two, why us? Why now? What brought you here? What's on your mind? What are your values? What are your goals? Okay, let's look into that insurance.’” (11:30—12:10) -Dr. Straub

“Being in admin at a dental office is super hard. And there's often this huge gap between our thinking and what comes out of our mouth and the story that that's telling. And it’s so hard to mesh your thinking and your mindset with what comes out of your mouth. It takes training, it takes practice, it takes years of experience, and the very best people at the front desk are the ones that have been able to close that gap and that stuff just rolls off their tongue. So, if you're in admin and you're listening to this and it’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward, that's okay. It is hard stuff. And some of the tools and the verbiage you're going to hear today, once you put that into your armamentarium, you're going to close that gap. And once you close that gap between your thinking and what comes out of your mouth, it gets a lot more fun and a lot easier to be a dentist or work in a dental office.” (12:21—13:11) -Dr. Straub

“I would never say, ‘Oh, just go ahead and lie to your patients.’ But what can you say that’s true and helpful? One of the things that you can very often say that's true and helpful is, ‘We are an insurance-friendly practice, and I would love to share with you how that works. Let me find out a little bit more about X, Y, and Z first.’ Because if you submit claims, if you call for any level of coverage, if you send a preauthorization, even if you give them the claim and the narrative and the X-rays to help them file a claim on their own, that is a level of insurance-friendliness.” (14:21—15:01) -Jenni

“My mindset, my philosophy is if I sign onto PPOs, I'm restricted. I'm restricted by what that insurance covers. I'm restricted by how often you can do certain procedures. I'm restricted by the 20-year-old girl sitting at the desk saying no to claims, and I have to call and talk with that person. I'm restricted. And so, when I take that restriction away and I take my relationship with the insurance away, now, the health of that patient is solely between me and them.” (15:14—15:47) -Dr. Straub

“Insurance is awesome. I love insurance because it helps patients access needed dental care. But I don't want the red tape and the logistics of that insurance to get in the way between me and my patient.” (15:48—16:00) -Dr. Straub

“A patient just wants to know that they're going to get their maximum coverage. And when a patient knows like, ‘I'm going to get you every cent that X, Y, Z dental owes you, but your decision and your mouth is yours. And I'm going to help you make that decision, but we’re going to get you every cent,’ most patients love that. And to Jenni’s point, I love the idea of never lying. Just say, ‘Yeah, you're going to probably spend a little bit more here. And it's totally worth it.’ And when you look a patient in the eye and you tell them that, they're like, ‘I'm all in.’” (16:25—16:55) -Dr. Straub

“If the first question you ask them is, ‘What insurance do you have?’ then you've just created that relationship to be based on the insurance. And so, we will often coach that even if the patient asks that question, to let them know like, ‘That's a really important question, and I totally want to get to that for you. But is it okay if I ask you a few other questions first?’ And then, you have to get back to it. You have to come back to it. If you've made them that promise that you're going to talk about it, then you have to do that.” (17:16—17:48) -Christina

“I think it’s really good to let the patients know how lucky they are and say, ‘There's a percentage of our patients who don't have that benefit. So, you're really lucky, Mrs. Jones. Because guess what? There's going to be $1,500 of this treatment plan that your insurance is going to help cover for you.’ And so, I think that that's such a mind shift, instead of having the patient call and then going, ‘Ugh, Etna.’” (18:02—18:27) -Christina

“Jenni said before, words matter. And across this nation, what happens in a lot of dental offices, they say, ‘Mrs. Jones, you need a crown. But you're out of coverage. They're not going to cover that until next year, so we should probably wait.’ And that may come from the dentist. Unfortunately, it probably does. A lot of times, it’s coming from the team because they haven't been calibrated on mindset and philosophy. But the words matter. So, there's a gap between our thinking and what comes out of our mouth. So, what is the patient hearing? The patient is hearing that, ‘I can't do dentistry unless my insurance covers it.’ They didn't give that story. The dental team or the dentist gave that story. And now, that patient is ingrained to that thinking when they normally probably weren't thinking that way when they walked into the office.” (18:30—19:19) -Dr. Straub

“The pushback I get from a lot of my admin team is, ‘How much time do you think I have to have this huge conversation?’ I don't want you to. I just want you to be able to say, ‘We, at Dr. Awesome Dental, we’re an unrestricted provider. Let me tell you what that means and how we can work with your benefit plan here in our practice.’ So, that way, you're cutting off some of that negativity, but you're not diving so deep into why you don't participate with all the big boys.” (19:40—20:15) -Adriana

“When I talk to my teams, I say, ‘Listen, we have to switch our brain off. When I walk into a medical office, if I call the optometrist — that I do not go to often enough — I don't know what to say when I call. I don't know what kind of appointment to ask for. I'm just like, um, I have this insurance. Do you take it? Just like a dental patient does to our practice.’ So, we try to switch our brains to, we have no dental experience. How would you feel calling this practice, and what type of language would you like to hear as the person on the other end? And we’ll go through that whole scenario because that is the key piece.” (20:29—21:08) -Adriana

“We want to know why they're really calling us and how we can help them with their benefits, not medical insurance. Totally different worlds. And there's no education on it. When you start working, you're handed this package of benefits and you know nothing about it. So, all they know is they're calling because they have X, Y dental to use, ‘I'm going to use this. This says two free. I get two free!’” (21:14—21:40) -Adriana

“People have a preconceived idea of what insurance is based on their medical insurance. And if you do work for a company and you have a benefits package, the HR director is probably going to tell you to, ‘Go to the people on your plan,’ or, ‘Go to the people who take our insurance,’ because that's what they know. That's their understanding. They're trying to save costs for their employees, and that's what they're going to say. So, we need to have a little bit of a shift around what the verbal skill is and why we’re going to use it.” (21:49—22:23) -Christina

“What Adriana said is true. A lot of our admin team don't have 15, 20 minutes to spend with every single new patient. So, rather than saying, ‘What insurance do you have?’ this team that I work with, they will say, ‘Do you plan to use benefits for this visit?’ And so, it’s a nice way of finding out if they have something and what they plan to use without saying, ‘Do you have insurance?’ or what type of insurance it is. ‘Are you planning to use benefits for this visit?’ So, you're already setting up the expectation that it’s a benefit and asking that question so that maybe they might say, ‘Oh, yeah. I have X, Y, Z.’ ‘Oh, great. That's awesome. I'm really glad you have some sort of benefit. Let's talk about how we can utilize that here in this office.’” (22:27—23:16) -Christina

“The more you talk about insurance in your dental practice, the more patients you're going to attract that, all they care about is insurance. We attract the people that believe what we believe. So, the more you put insurance in the proper mindset, the more you're going to attract patients to your practice that believe insurance helps, but believes their health is more important than what it covers.” (24:26—24:50) -Dr. Straub

“We give energy to the things we talk about. So, sometimes, we’ve got to step away like a third party, looking at the verbiage, looking at the message we’re giving our patients, and say, ‘Are we giving the right message or the message we want to be portraying?’” (24:50—25:05) -Dr. Straub

“A lot of times, the idea of having verbiage examples or using tools, Say This, Not That, people say, ‘Well, it’s not natural and it feels like I'm tricking people.’ Not at all. All verbiage does, you find the right verbiage examples that help you portray the message that’s in your brain so you can close that gap. You're not sending a message that's incorrect. So, we need to practice this. I hate roleplaying, but if you're new to admin, roleplaying is super important to answer this question because it is hard to answer.” (25:18—25:53) -Dr. Straub

“The best training, if it’s legal in your state to record some phone calls with your admin — and the admin team is going to hate it, but it’s the best learning that anyone can do, is to hear. I recorded some consultations early in my career where I presented all this to patients. I knew it was going to be recorded, and I was amazed how awful I was. And when you hear it, you're like, ‘I am sending the wrong message. I have to change my verbiage.’ So, we’ve got to be humble in this at the same time. But use this tool, pick the verbiage that resonates with your mindset, and use it. Or tweak it to be your own. Having verbiage examples is really, really useful.” (25:54—26:32) -Dr. Straub

“It definitely has to be authentic. So, don't read word-for-word what our suggestion is. That's why, on this document, there's a space for you to come up with your own agreements and what your team agrees is a good way to say it.” (26:34—26:47) -Christina

“Your verbal skill is keeping the door open for that relationship. If somebody asks a question, ‘Do you take Etna?’ And you say no, you have shut the door on that relationship. And there's absolutely no opportunity for that patient to come in and get the help that they're looking for. So, if you use these skills, it will keep the door open. The patient will get in, they’ll get help, they’ll be able to use their benefits, and you've done a really good job of creating a patient who values what you do.” (26:49—27:19) -Christina

“By me giving too much information on the phone, whether I'm trying to educate, now I'm just scaring them. Patients will say, ‘How much does that cost? What is my coverage?’ ‘I don't know. I just met you. I just now know your insurance company. I don't know anything about it. I need to get you in to see the doctor to see what you need so I can say coverage.’ Because if I say, ‘Oh, don't worry. That crown is covered at 50%,’ and it’s not, well, now they're going to be upset. Or they may not even need a crown. Maybe they get something else, and they get 80% coverage. I really can't answer that without knowing you as a person and what you need.” (27:24—28:04) -Ariel

“Be careful of giving too much information. Don't lie, and don't tell them incorrect information. Because you need to get them in, but you can't give them too much without knowing. Even if they say, ‘I need an extraction,’ we don't know that's true until the doctor does a treatment plan.” (28:04—28:22) -Ariel

“If you don't know what to say, always go back to the values of the practice.” (28:31—28:34) -Kirk

“In addition to the words, the way we say it, like how AB has recommended, like, ‘Let me tell you what that means,’ we take control of that. We’re proud of the fact that, ‘Here is our relationship with insurance,’ rather than, ‘Ugh, unfortunately, we don't.’ When you get into those words, the patients see fear, or that you aren't comfortable with it. Whereas if we’re approaching it with, ‘Let me tell you how I can help you,’ it changes the conversation. A patient feels more confident in our answer and what we’re going to give to them.” (30:11—30:41) -Robyn

“Patients are going to call. They don't know what to ask. They feel a little alone. They’ve called a lot of different offices. You don't want to let them know that they're alone and that's kind of a weird question for us because we only take cash and Bitcoin. You don't want to say that. You want to let people know the herd mentality, ‘Mrs. Jones, we have a lot of people that call with exactly that same question.’ What you're letting me know is that I'm in a group of people that are kind of the same thing, and we help people just like you.” (32:16—32:39) -Kirk

“When you tell [patients] that, ‘Oh, I've had this conversation with many people,’ it’s telling them they belong. They feel safe there. When they feel safe, they can make really informed decisions with you alongside them guiding them. So, you've got to make your patients feel safe. Make them know that they belong with you.” (33:38—33:56) -Deena


0:00 Introduction.

3:33 How Say This, Not That started, and why it’s important.

4:59 Have two solutions for every obstacle.

5:35 Solutions to the dreaded question.

8:34 Most patients don't know what to ask.

10:49 Close the gap between your thinking and what you say.

14:01 Tell patients what is true and helpful.

15:03 Unrestricted providers, explained.

16:57 The dentist’s words and the team’s words matter.

19:21 Switch off your dental brains.  

21:42 Benefits versus insurance.

23:16 Find the right verbiage examples.

27:20 Don't give patients too much information.

29:01 Change your mindset to change your practice.

29:56 Last thoughts.

30:43 Triad learning, explained.

32:06 Let patients know the herd mentality.

Dr. Barrett Straub Bio:

Dr. Barrett Straub practices general and sedation dentistry in Port Washington, Wisconsin. He has worked hard to develop his practice into a top-performing, fee-for-service practice that focuses on improving the lives of patients through dentistry.

A graduate of Marquette Dental School, Dr. Straub’s advanced training and CE includes work at the Spear Institute, LVI, DOCS, and as a member of the Milwaukee Study Club. He is a past member of the Wisconsin Dental Association Board of Trustees and was awarded the Marquette Dental School 2017 Young Alumnus of the Year. As a former ACT coaching client that experienced first-hand the transformation that coaching can provide, he is passionate about helping other dentists create the practice they’ve always wanted. 

Dr. Straub loves to hunt, golf, and spend winter on the ice, curling. He is married to Katie, with two daughters, Abby and Elizabeth.

Christina Byrne Bio:

Christina Byrne has been involved in dentistry since 1985. Over the years, she has held many positions on the dental team, including dental assistant, business office, and dental hygienist. Christina’s extensive knowledge of the front office and clinical procedures is a great asset, and she loves to impart her knowledge to guide dental teams do the best they can to achieve a Better Practice, Better Life!

Adriana Booth, BS, RDH Bio:

Adriana Booth is a Lead Practice Coach who partners with dentists and their teams to cultivate leadership skills, build practice growth, and streamline business practices. After spending nearly two decades in the dental industry working with top-notch dental teams, Adriana came to ACT to share her passion for professional growth, high-level training, and systems creation with our clients.

As a dental hygienist with a love for continuing education and personal growth, helping a practice become successful is at the heart of her passion for dentistry.

Adriana has a B.S. in Dental Hygiene from West Liberty University/O’Hehir University. By being involved in several Columbus, Ohio, study clubs, Adriana maintains strong relationships within her local dental community. She enjoys a variety of fitness activities, family time, good books, and at the top of her list, her fur babies.

Deena Meldgin Bio:

Deena is a lead practice coach passionate about practice administration, team building, and practice performance. She has been working in the industry since 2006 and has become well-versed in dental administrative systems and helping practices improve results. Deena enjoys strengthening office communication and elevating team attitude while creating a happy and high-performing practice environment.

When Deena isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with Matt and two English bulldogs, Sumo and Benny.

Jenni Poulos Bio:

Jenni brings to dental teams a literal lifetime of experience in dentistry. As the daughter and sister of periodontists and a dental hygienist, she has been working in many facets of the dental world since she first held a summer job turning rooms and pouring models at the age of 12. Now, with over 10 years of experience in managing and leading a large periodontal practice, she has a firm grasp on what it takes to run a thriving business. Her passion for organizational health and culture has been a driving force behind her coaching career. She has witnessed firsthand how creating an aligned and engaged team will take a practice to levels of success that they never believed possible! 

Ariel Juday Bio:

Ariel has a master’s in healthcare administration and several years of dental experience in all aspects of the administrative roles within the dental office. Her passion is to work with dental teams to empower team members to realize their full potential in order to better serve patients, improve office systems to ensure a well-functioning team/office, and to help everyone have fun in the process!

Outside of work, she can be found by the beach or the pool reading a good book, enjoying sporting events with her husband, Alex, or exploring the outdoors with her Bluetick Coonhound, Maddux.

Heather Crockett Bio:

Heather Crockett is a Lead Practice Coach who finds joy in not only improving practices but improving the lives of those she coaches as well. With over 20 years of combined experience in assisting, office management, and clinical dental hygiene, her awareness supports many aspects of the practice setting.

Heather received her dental hygiene degree from the Utah College of Dental Hygiene in 2008. Networking in the dental community comes easy to her, and she loves to connect with like-minded colleagues on social media. Heather enjoys both attending and presenting continuing education to expand her knowledge and learn from her friends and colleagues.

She enjoys hanging out with her husband, three sons, and their dog, Moki, scrolling through social media, watching football, and traveling.

Robyn Theisen Bio:

Robyn Theisen brings an entire life and legacy of dental experience to the team and every team with which she works as the daughter and sister of dentists. With almost 20 years of experience in dentistry, her roles ranged from practice management to operations at Patterson Dental to coaching teams. Robyn’s passion is empowering teams to realize that they can dramatically impact the lives of the people they serve by implementing skills and systems to remove barriers to life-changing dental treatment. She has done it for decades and does it every day with dental teams.

Outside of coaching, she enjoys time with her husband, Rob, and two daughters, Emerson and Ruby. She loves traveling, music, fitness, and cheering on the Michigan State Spartans. 


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