As the effects of healthcare reform continue to ripple through the world of medicine, providers have seen their first-quarter revenue cycle decrease. This is not totally unfamiliar to the dental industry but, because patient healthcare and dental insurance deductibles reset in January, patients will face a ”use-it-or-lose-it” situation from now until December 31. Further, many deductibles have risen to levels many patients will find difficult to bear financially. Coupled with higher deductibles will be higher co-pays and possibly severe reductions in coverage for those whose insurance comes through an employer. What does all this mean for your practice and for patients needing a CPAP alternative, like a SomnoDent oral appliance, to treat their mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea?
EXPECT A BUSY Q4
January deductible resets are nothing new, during November and December, most providers see waiting rooms teeming with patients seeking covered services before the new year. This year, however, could see new highs in consumer demand. With more out-of-pocket expenses, premium uncertainties on their horizons, and fewer services covered by insurance plans, many customers who have already met their deductibles will try to receive covered treatment before the January 1 deductible reset, which could mean more billing for co-pays and therapy.
MANY HEAR CRICKETS IN Q1
For many practices, the bolstered activity of Q4 won’t carry over to Q1. The beginning-of-the-year slowdown may be compounded by patients suffering sticker shock with the new deductible and co-pay costs. Sadly, many patients will enter the new year woefully under-informed on the coming increases. Your intake staff could be facing the challenging effects of patient surprise.
With higher deductibles and less coverage, the load on patient budgets may be such that any non-emergency medical issue, whether covered after the deductible or not, may be left untreated. Should this prove an eventuality, dental practices offering oral appliance therapy to treat mild-to-moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may need to rethink their billing strategies and marketing plans to encourage patients to seek services regardless of budget difficulties. Encouraging preventive care services and retooling their approach to patient billing could be the answer for many practices offering SomnoDent oral devices.
REVENUE CYCLE MANAGEMENT MAY SUFFER
First of the year struggles may well carry on throughout the year as patients adjust to higher self-pay costs. Many practices could see a sharp increase in slow-pay accounts and delinquencies. For those consumers who cannot forestall treatments but also haven’t the resources to pay their full portion all at once may believe they have little choice but to pay over time. Without a prearranged agreement for billing installments, too many irregular and sluggish accounts could mean a stressed-out billing department, distressed patients, and uncertain budget forecasts.
CONSIDER A MEDICAL BILLING PARTNER
Anticipating future collections challenges, now may be a good time to consider partnering with a technology-based medical billing partner that specializes in dental sleep medicine. Right now, Nierman Practice Management is offering a special discount on services, software, and education to SomnoMed customers. You can learn more about that program here or by contacting us at 1-888-447-6673.
Managing patient expectations before the deductible reset in January will be your best opportunity to forestall difficulties in your revenue cycle. By compassionately alerting patient’s to deductible resets and the importance of treating sleep apnea (a life-long condition) for improved overall health is a great step into the new year. You can access our end of year marketing collections kit here or by clicking the banner below.