How do your Fees Compare? Resources for Solo & Group Dental Practices

Free Fee Evaluation: Resources for Solo & Group Dental Practices

Would you like to know how much other dentists in your area are charging for a crown? For an extraction? For a cleaning?

You can find out for free on the new website. Fair health is a national, independent, not for profit corporation created to provide medical and dental fees and health information. This site explains all sorts of medical/dental/insurance terminology (such as in vs. out of network), offers a lookup of fees, plus an e-newsletter for consumers. An April 24, 2012 article in the New York Times outlines that the Fair Health database was created as a result of a 2009 lawsuit settlement with the largest health insurance companies – as part of the settlement, these companies were required to create a transparent way for the public to compare out of pocket medical expenses.

Unfortunately, the insurers are not using this Fair health database to benchmark their coverage – and the site itself is not well known. The NYT article online has almost 700 comments, so as more consumers discover this website, the more educated patients will become. This is a good thing. The more patients understand how their dental insurance works, the more effectively they can use their benefits.

Dentists can use this website to compare their fees as well. On the website home page, click on the dental link, then enter your zip code and a procedure (or even just the code) and click Go. Once you agree to the website terms, a list of matching procedures comes up on the page. Checkmark the ones that apply and then choose if you are insured or uninsured  (I recommend selecting uninsured for this comparison) and the next page shows a table of the code, the description, the common terminology and the estimated charge. With these results, you can see in black & white how your fees compare. One limitation: you’re only allowed 20 searches per month from your IP address and then the site blocks you until next month. So, to check all your fees, you may have to ask your staff to check some fees from their home computer.

Dentrix Training for Dental Office Managers

For Dentrix users, here are specific instructions to do this fee comparison: First run a Practice Analysis report in Dentrix – select Production Summary only (and skip the category option), you want to see which procedure codes you are charging out most often. Write down every fee that you charge out at least 1% of the time – enter the codes and your fee in excel. In my practice, I end up with about 25 fees when I run this report. Next, go on the Fair health website and note their benchmark fee right beside your standard fee. Next, divide your fee into the Fair health fee – so if you’re charging $70 for a dental cleaning and the Fair health fee shows $76, you would see $70/$76 = 92% – so you’re below the benchmark. If you copy this calculation for all the fees, you can see how far off you are for each procedure.

If your fee is substantially below the Fair health fee, then it’s time to increase your fees. I wouldn’t recommend more than a 3%-4% increase each year, but if you’re checking your fees each year, you can make up ground quickly. On the other hand, if your fees are higher than the Fair health fee, then you should determine if you’re offering something more and you can logically explain your higher fee – or perhaps, it’s time to reduce your fee? The nice part here is that you’re no longer guessing about dental practice management – you have benchmark numbers right in front of you on which you can base your decisions.

As more and more companies are dropping their dental benefits, people are looking for a fair dental fee. When they discover the Fair health website, they will appreciate you providing them a fair fee – in fact, if you feel confident in your fees, you could refer patients to this website simply to learn more about their dental benefits, saving your office staff time explaining what an EOB is for the 400th time.

So, go online, check out your fees and see how you turn out.

For more ideas to improve the business-side of your dental practice:

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
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