Removing Barriers to Care: The Cost of Dentistry
There seem to be three barriers to care for patients today. The common barriers are fear, time, and finances. We at Jones Family Dental have solutions for the phobic patients where we utilize various techniques including sedation to improve patient experience. We offer modified hours and even come in on Saturdays when patients are struggling with their schedule but financial challenges are hard to address as the cost of doing business is high in the technology and material driven world dentistry.
When we consider the financial options for people today we have essentially 4 options.
1) Buy dental insurance. Often dental insurance is designed not to pay for the care we need without a waiting period or exceptionally high premiums and dental insurance limits have not been raised for decades while the cost of living and therefore the cost of dental care has gone up significantly. Often the least expensive plans force you to see large “big box” corporate offices that function with the “high speed and high volume care model,” which challenges even quality providers to work at such a rate that creating an ideal patient education and care experience is very difficult to accomplish.
2) Pay cash out of pocket. For some who are healthy or wealthy, this may be the best option as preventative care is relatively inexpensive. For others with financial challenges or significant existing problems, this can lead to pain, suffering, and loss of function.
3) Go to government subsidized care. There are various clinics in the area that have grants and or government subsidizing the care that the patients receive. These clinics specifically serve low income families and greatly reduce costs associated with dental care. For some this is the only option that suits their needs and I am grateful that the service exists. Unfortunately the problems that we see with this model involve an extensive waiting period and often the providers only have time for limited care due to the number of people seeking discounted services. This often results in more of a “triage” or emergency service. I have patients that have discussed waiting over 6 months to address significant dental pathology.
4) Health credit programs. We utilize Care Credit which can provide Interest Free credit to patients. There is a charge for this service but in many cases we pay the fees and allow a patient to pay for their dental care interest free over a period of time. This greatly reduces the immediate financial impact of dental care. Unfortunately, some may not qualify for the credit as this is managed by a third party and we have no control over the qualification process. Lastly, if even a single payment is missed they raise the interest rate paid by the patient from 0 to over 20 percent.
But there is a 5th option. We are now offering membership in our Dental Wellness Club. The beauty of this program is that it addresses many of the problems that I listed above. It provides immediate benefits, reduces cost, includes all preventative care, may include free emergency visits, offers our patients the freedom to choose their care and benefits without complicated insurance benefit coordination, and ultimately improves wellness. This is an annual program designed specifically for patients who do NOT have dental insurance. There are two membership plans with one addressing the needs for patients diagnosed with periodontal disease. Participation in this club is limited at this time but you may be able to join.