Lowering the Cost of Dental Care

From my first day of practice, I knew two things about dentistry. I knew that I loved the caring part of delivering dental care. I also knew that I didn’t like the high cost of delivering care, driven by the intricate nature of dentistry, the high cost of the equipment, and the pricy materials. Our office has always looked for ways to reduce these costs when possible so that we can help make quality care affordable.

Based on what we have learned, we think there is a limited opportunity for some dental expenses to be paid by medical insurance.

I recently learned that there may be a way for some patients to save money by using medical insurance for their dental work. To find out more about how to lessen the expense of dentistry for our patients, three of us (Jo, Julie, and I) traveled to Raleigh (North Carolina) on November 17 and 18 to learn about “Medical Coding,” the process of submitting patients’ claims for benefits to medical insurance.  Historically, all dental benefit claims submitted to medical insurance were automatically rejected. However, one outcome of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 was a mandate for the adoption of a uniform set of diagnosis and treatment codes for medicine and dentistry. That code set was developed and deployed October 1, 2015. Based on what we have learned, we think there is a limited opportunity for some dental expenses to be paid by medical insurance.

Frankly, there are many things I would rather do than learn medical insurance coding. The new medical code set is called ICD-10, and it is very complex. There are 87,000 procedure codes and 68,000 diagnosis codes. Fortunately, there are only a few hundred codes that apply to dentistry. So, to try to make dental care less costly for our patients, Jo, Julie and I took a deep breath and jumped into the pool of medical billing.

We’re going to embark on this experiment because we care about you and minimizing the cost of keeping you healthy.

If you would like us to try to obtain more insurance benefits to help defray the cost of dental care, we will need a copy of your medical insurance benefit card and your permission to submit claims for benefits to your medical insurance. You may bring your cards by our office so that we can copy them. We will be asking you for your cards when you have an appointment.

Medical billing for dental care is an experiment. Even though some limited dental codes are in ICD-10, it doesn’t mean insurance companies will reimburse them. Insurance companies are notoriously slow to respond to change, especially if it means paying more benefits. However, we’re going to embark on this experiment because we care about you and minimizing the cost of keeping you healthy.

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