The hassle of dealing with the insurance companies to receive dental care can be overwhelming, and a lack of dental insurance can prevent patients from seeking the treatments they need. If your dental practice serves uninsured or underinsured patients and you're looking for ways to improve your services, a dental membership plan is an attractive option to consider. Dental membership plans allow dentists to offer care to their uninsured or underinsured patients. Dentists enjoy offering care while avoiding the stress, costs, and worries associated with insurance companies, but dental membership plans provide several advantages for patients as well. Learn how patients benefit from dental membership plans and how you can offer a plan of your own.
What Is a Dental Membership Plan?
Before you can understand the benefits of a dental membership plan, you need to know what it is and how it works. Dental membership plans are in-house sponsored dental plans offered directly by dental practices. Dental practices offer membership plans for patients who need care but don't have a traditional dental insurance policy.
Dental membership plans work similarly to other subscription services, but patients receive preventative and procedural dental care instead of streaming services or a box of products. Patients pay their dentist office a monthly or annual fee, usually around $30 per month or $360 per year, and receive a predetermined set of services in exchange.
Most dental membership plans include two annual cleanings complete with X-rays and other treatments such as fluoride and teeth whitening. From there, patients receive discounted rates for necessary procedures such as fillings, bridges, and implants if their dental care provider offers such services.
Dental membership plans are not the same as dental discount plans. Though some people may use the terms interchangeably, the two differ in several ways.
Benefits of Dental Membership Plans for Patients
The dental membership plan model offers both patients and dentists many benefits. Let's take a look at a few of the many benefits patients receive when your practice offers a dental membership plan.
1. Patients Can Bypass Insurance Companies
Bypassing the insurance companies to receive the dental care your patients need helps them maintain consistent, quality, and comprehensive care. A dental membership plan cuts out the middle man, whether that's insurance companies or dental discount providers. A membership plan helps you provide patients with the preventative care and necessary procedures they need to maintain their oral health.
Patients without traditional employer-sponsored dental insurance often neglect their preventative care needs by skipping regular dental cleanings and check-ups. This frequently leads to larger issues with their oral health and creates a higher need for costly emergency dental care. When this happens, patients have no choice but to receive the urgent care they need while paying full price for procedures. These unexpected costs can leave dentists scrambling to collect patient balances and take their focus away from growing their practice and accepting new patients. It also contributes to the growing medical debt that many Americans have due to not having insurance coverage or being able to pay for emergency health services.
2. Simpler Care for Patients
Receiving simpler care is one of the biggest benefits of a dental membership plan for patients. Dental patients without insurance face uncertainty when determining the types of care they need and can afford. When deciding whether to pursue preventative or necessary dental care, patients may choose based on their finances rather than their personal well-being. Dental membership plans eliminate many of these concerns as they're designed to provide simpler care for patients.
Membership plans typically include the following types of care for patients:
- Two annual routine cleanings, one every six months
- X-rays, consultations, and exams
- Fluoride treatments
- Teeth whitening treatments
- Discounted rates for necessary oral procedures
All dental membership plans are unique, so be sure you explain the details of your specific plan to your patients. Many dentists offering membership plans extend discounts to patients who pay their annual membership fees upfront. A dental membership plan provides patients with the peace of mind of knowing they're covered for office visits and routine exams and eliminates the hassle associated with dental insurance. Even patients with dental insurance often aren't sure what is and what isn't covered. Unexpected bills for treatments and procedures on top of monthly insurance premiums can create problems for dental providers and patients alike.
A dental membership plan is a great way for patients and their families to receive the preventative care they need, avoid costly emergency procedures, and maintain optimal oral health. Membership plans layout the services patients receive for paying a fixed monthly or yearly fee. This benefit gives patients the security of knowing they'll receive the dental care they need without the stress and worry of unexpected dental procedures.
3. No Hidden Terms or Costs for Patients
Simpler care for patients also eliminates confusing language and terminology so patients know exactly what to expect with their dental membership plan. One of the biggest hassles of dealing with insurance companies revolves around hidden terms, conditions, and costs that patients may not be aware of until they need to schedule care or treatment.
Many dental insurance plans include terms and conditions that patients must closely follow and meet before coverage starts. They often include misleading and unclear terminology that leaves patients thinking they're covered for a certain treatment or procedure only to discover their dental policy isn't going to pay for the care or services they need.
For example, imagine your dental insurance policy states "full coverage for preventative care," so you schedule an appointment with your dentist for a cleaning and routine exam expecting not to pay anything out-of-pocket. After your appointment, you receive a bill and learn that you must meet your deductible before coverage starts.
Insurance terms such as deductibles, co-pays, annual maximums, and other common insurance policy terminologies that directly impact out-of-pocket expenses can confuse and mislead patients. Using their dental benefits takes more work, time, and money than originally expected for patients who don't understand insurance terms. Dental membership plans are a straightforward approach to care and clearly outline the types of routine care, and procedures patients can expect to receive. Hidden terms lead to hidden costs, which leaves dental care providers and patients scrambling to find solutions.
4. Dental Membership Plan Benefits Begin Immediately
One of the biggest hassles of dealing with dental insurance companies involves waiting periods. A waiting period, also called a qualifying period or elimination period, is the amount of time an insured patient must wait before all or part of their planned coverage takes effect and they can begin receiving dental services. During this period, insurance providers can choose to cancel your policy due to issues such as high-risk patients or dependants who don't qualify for coverage through a policy. Insurance companies often try to disqualify a patient from coverage if they believe insuring the patient will cost them more money than they'll make.
Dental membership plans are straightforward in that they offer benefits starting immediately. Once a patient signs up for a plan and makes the first payment or covers the annual fee, they're eligible to start receiving care and utilizing their benefits. This is similar to other membership-based plans across other industries in that once you pay, you start receiving service.
5. Most Dentists Offer Exclusive Discounts for Plan Members
Dental memberships allow both dentists and patients the freedom to design plans geared towards providing and receiving care at affordable and reasonable rates. Many times, dentists design plans with fees that cover the costs of routine exams and cleanings while offering discounts for additional restorative and cosmetic dental procedures, including:
Dental insurance policies don't typically cover more than 50% of restorative and cosmetic costs, which still leaves patients paying large out-of-pocket expenses. It's important to note that dental membership plans aren't designed to cover these procedures in full either. However, most dental membership plans offer substantial discounts to members who require these unexpected necessary dental procedures. In some cases, the discounted amount is comparable to the amount covered by an insurance policy. The size and amount of discounts offered in a plan differ between dentists, but most discounts start around 10% and can go as high as 50%, depending on the complexity of the procedure.
Dental insurance creates costs and issues for dentists as well as patients. There are fees associated with filing claims, claim denials, and waiting periods that cost dentist offices time and money. Dental membership plans allow dentists to take the savings from not having to deal with insurance companies and pass it along to their patients in the form of discounted rates on necessary procedures.
6. Membership Plans Practically Pay for Themselves
One of the most overlooked aspects of a dental membership plan is that they practically pay for themselves after only one routine cleaning visit. Biannual cleanings are an important preventative care measure that most patients without dental insurance neglect because they think it costs too much money to pay out-of-pocket. Uninsured patients don't want to break their budget for just one routine cleaning visit, and many will wait until they need necessary procedures such as extractions or implants before scheduling an appointment with their dentist.
Dentists recognize the issues that stem from this type of mentality and have embraced membership plans as a way to grow their practice and offer patients the care they need to prevent serious oral health issues from arising. Affordable plans starting around $30 per month or $360 per year are more than worth the cost of one visit. When patients realize they can save a ton of money by using the benefits of their plan just one time, they're happy to follow through on scheduling and keep their routine exam and cleaning appointments.
7. Dental Membership Plans Have No Requirements or Limitations
Receiving dental insurance benefits is not always guaranteed, and some people find themselves having to overcome barriers to be eligible for dental insurance. Adding dependants, finding in-network dentists, and reaching deductibles are all obstacles to receiving dental benefits from insurance companies. Some insurance providers even require patients to submit marriage certificates or joint account billing statements as proof before they allow people to add a spouse or other dependants to the policy.
Other insurance companies have limitations in place to reduce their risk of paying too much for coverage. Most dental policies limit the frequency with which patients can use their benefits and limit the procedures they'll cover. For example, if your last routine cleaning visit was in May, an insurance plan likely limits your eligibility for another cleaning until November.
Dental membership plans eliminate the need for patients to prove their eligibility and remove barriers to obtaining the coverage they need for their loved ones. Membership plans offer patients an easy way to get the care they need without overcoming unrealistic obstacles and requirements for coverage. For the most part, the only requirement a patient must meet before they're eligible for a dental membership plan is paying the monthly or annual fee on time and in full. Once patients have paid membership plan fees, they can start receiving care and scheduling office visits.
How Do Dental Membership Plans Differ From Dental Discount Plans?
If you're searching online for more information about dental membership plans, you're likely going to come across dental discount plans as well. It's important to realize that dental discount plans are different from dental membership plans. In general, discount plans tend to offer fewer benefits for both patients and dentists. Generally, third-party companies offer discount plans. They manage the plan and collect an upfront annual fee from patients in exchange for discounted dental services from their network of participating dental providers.
With a discount plan, patients are still responsible for paying the remaining balance after getting a discount on the dental services they received. Unexpected bills leave patients and providers stressed and overwhelmed by the hassle of collecting money before scheduling future services and appointments. Essentially, patients pay their dental provider a little less money but then have two separate bills instead of one flat membership fee.
Dental membership plans are in-house sponsored plans offered by dental care providers themselves, which cuts out the middle man and eliminates the hassle of dealing with unexpected dental care costs.
Get Started Offering Dental Membership Plans for Your Patients With Software From Kleer
The benefits of offering dental membership plans for your patients are obvious, but you'll also love what membership plans can do for the success and growth of your dental practice. Help patients get the care they need, reduce costs, and boost practice valuation while differentiating your dental practice from the competition.
Kleer is the membership plan solution that empowers dentists to offer patients direct access to personalized care. Implementing your in-house dental membership plans using Kleer's industry-leading software is easy and saves your practice time, money, and valuable resources. Eliminate the need for insurance and focus on what's most important — your patients and your practice!
Learn more about how Kleer can fuel your practice's growth, help attract new patients, and improve patient loyalty. Request your free demo and get started with Kleer's dental membership plan solutions today!