What Medicare Dental Legislation Might Mean For Dentists

An opinion piece in The Hill noted the House passage of H.R. 3, authorizing adding dental benefits to Medicare. Surveys report broad bipartisan support among the general population in all age groups.

While H.R. 3’s passage in the Senate is by no means guaranteed, it’s wise to plan now for the bill’s possible enactment.

Good News, Bad News

Dentists everywhere no doubt like the idea of more people being able to get needed dental care. At the same time, they’re probably wondering how they’re going to make any money. 

Medicare’s reimbursement rates generally are well below what most physicians and hospitals charge. If you currently accept Medicaid patients, you know just how much lower those payments can be.

There’s no reason to think that reimbursement for dental care will be any more lucrative. Dentists who don’t accept Medicaid, or who limit the number of Medicaid patients they accept, will need to decide whether to get on board with Medicare. There’s a natural tension between the desire to help others and the need to get paid enough for your efforts.

However, there are some silver linings in the cloud that might make your decision easier.

Not All Medicare Patients Are Strapped For Cash

At present, Medicare consists almost exclusively of seniors ages 65 and up. While there are quite a few seniors who live on limited means, the Boomer generation is relatively affluent overall. 

For those patients, Medicare would simply replace their current dental insurance. And since many, if not most, seniors have the ability to go fee-for-service, you don’t stand to lose any money. 

There are patients in almost every practice who go fee-for-service for the absolute minimum of dental care – cleanings, exams, and the occasional restoration. Those patients might benefit from additional procedures, but without insurance, they simply can’t afford them. With the Medicare portion paid, more of those patients are likely to opt for more involved procedures.

The final silver lining is this: if Medicare for all (or even most) becomes a reality, there will be little to no need for pro bono dental services. While those events can be excellent public relations, they represent a loss of income for the day or days.

Why Not Find A Happy Medium?

Whether dental services are added to Medicare or not, there’s a clear path forward and upward for dentists. That path consists of attracting more, high-value, patients to your practice. 

High-value dental patients aren’t overly concerned with saving a few bucks or about what their insurance will pay. They have the discretionary funds to pay more for the care they want from the dentist they choose. 

If you’ve been taking a price-based approach to growing your practice, making the switch to attract high-value patients can be a big lift. However, you don’t have to make the effort. SmartBox will do it for you. 

If you’d like to learn more about what SmartBox can do to help you grow your practice, schedule a Practice Growth Call. It’s not a sales call in any sense. You and Ashley Best – one of the top practice growth experts in the country on anyone’s short list – will discuss your goals, your current approach to marketing, your competition and what’s working (and not).

Following the call, an entire team of experts will prepare your Summary of Findings and your Practice Growth Roadmap

Whether adding dental services to Medicare gets traction or not, you’ll be poised for practice growth that will astound you.