Rising Patient Responsibility: Dental Services
In prior posts, we’ve discussed the impact of rising patient costs in a variety of healthcare specialties, including ambulatory surgical centers, behavioral health, and even veterinary services for pets. Today we discuss what’s happening in dental services, including the environment dental practices have to operate in as a result of these patient cost trends, and the rise of ‘dental tourism’.
Dental comprises a significant portion of out-of-pocket healthcare spending.
In a survey released in January of this year, the JP Morgan Chase Institute identified that 21% of total consumer out-of-pocket spending for healthcare goes to dental, only a point lower than the 22% allocated to traditional physician care. No other medical specialty garnered even close to the same spend level than dental. While this reflects a certain level of trust and value placed on dentists and oral health in general, it also reveals the significant costs now being shouldered by the patient in this area of specialty. So what can dentists learn from this? Marketing and new patient outreach should be aimed at making the case to patients to spend their valuable discretionary dollars on dental services, something the numbers suggest many are already willing to do. The JPMCI study also suggested, not surprisingly, that the months of March and April (tax refunds) and December (year-end bonuses) were the best seasonal periods in which to attract new patients, particularly for more expensive procedures.
Dental insurance can often be dramatically inadequate to cover major procedures.
While health insurance has left patients with a larger portion of the check across the board, this is perhaps no more evident than in dental services. It’s not uncommon for dental insurance plans to cap out after only a few thousand dollars, while major restorative dentistry can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. And that’s for those who even carry dental insurance at all. In 2015, it was estimated that more than a third of working adults in the U.S. did not have any dental coverage, contrasted with only 12% without medical coverage in the following year. For many, dental coverage is a luxury they simply can’t afford, and with such limited coverage, may not even be worth it, anyway.
The rise of dental tourism.
With dental costs having reportedly risen at 3X the rate of annual inflation, explosive cost growth in this $120B industry has led to some surprising trends for patients needing expensive procedures. One of these trends is the growing popularity of ‘dental tourism’, or vacations geared around getting extensive restorative dental work done in another country. It is estimated that as many as 800,000 Americans travel overseas for dental work each year, often to countries such as Mexico and Costa Rica. Clearly a lost opportunity for North American-based dental practices, it can also be quite dangerous for the patients, who may suffer the consequences of subpar quality from dentists practicing in countries with lesser standards. Still, it is a growing option, particularly for those desperate for services, but without the funds available to obtain services in the U.S.
It certainly doesn’t have to be this way. For those who may need to finance restorative or other extensive dental procedures, Curae can provide flexible patient financing in just minutes, while the provider can be paid within 48 hours after a charge has been processed. Give your patients peace of mind, and an opportunity to seek the care they need without having to travel abroad and leave the comforts of home. To find out more, visit Curae today.