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From the Office Manager's Desk: How do your fees compare?

Issue 5

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

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 Fair Health 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 fees lookup plus an e-newsletter for consumers.

How it came about

An April 24 New York Times article 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.

What it can do for patients

Unfortunately, the insurers are not using this Fair Health database to benchmark their coverage-and the site itself is not well known. The online NYT article 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.

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How you can use it

Dentists can use this website to compare their fees as well. On the website homepage, 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 and 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 the next month. So, to check all your fees, you may have to ask your team members to check some fees from their home computers.

How to use the information

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, you should determine if you’re offering something more and you can logically explain your higher fee-or perhaps, maybe it’s time to reduce your fee. The nice part is you’re no longer guessing-you have benchmark numbers right in front of you on which you can base your decisions.

Your patients will thank you

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, refer patients to this website simply to so they can 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.

Jill Nesbitt is a dental consultant and practicing office manager for a multi-specialty private dental group. Nesbitt has managed the practice for 14 years, has state-level quality training, and coaches dental teams to improve the business-side of their practices.

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