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Melanie Mornard
Mornard & Associates

Financing Treatment
The key to gaining acceptance for recommended treatment is preplanning

 

 

 

The owner of Mornard & Associates, Melanie Mornard has over 25 years experience in training and development, project management, and management needs assessment. Her fields of expertise are management training, basic skills expansion, and policy and procedure development. In addition, she teaches seminars on customer service, sexual harassment, supervising a diverse work force, and increasing profits for small businesses. She is currently co-owner of Business Cash Flow, a company using modern technology to increase cash flow into small and mid-sized businesses. BCF offers pre-authorized checking, electronic NSF check collection, checks by phone and the Internet, and credit card services to companies throughout the United States and Canada. Melanie is also a principal and member of Como Consortium, Ltd., a graphics production firm specializing in Web sites for professionals, training materials, packaging, display booths and brochures. You may reach Melanie Mornard at Business Cash Flow, 11 Empire Drive, St. Paul, MN 55103, phone 651-602-6051, fax 651-290-2263, or e-mail mmornard@pconline.com.

When it comes to the financial planning associated with long-term or expensive dental treatment, patients definitely need some options. Anytime a patient has to consider dental treatment beyond that covered by dental insurance there will be resistance; it’s human nature. But most, when given treatment alternatives, options for payment, and a little time to adjust, will make the decision to undergo the suggested treatment.

The key to gaining acceptance for recommended treatment is preplanning. Ideally you should have a written plan listing the recommended treatment, one or two alternatives, the pros and cons, and the approximate cost of each option. This will not only give you an outline to follow when discussing the alternative treatments with your patient, but will also be something the patient will be able to take home with him/her for reference.

In most cases, the decision on which treatment to choose will not be the most difficult. Most patients will agree the recommended treatment is the best choice. Their major concern is, “How will I pay for it.” If you’re not prepared to help them answer this question, don’t be surprised when they don’t make arrangements for treatment.

Long Term Solutions

There will be occasions when the patient will have time to prepare for the expense. An example might be a child that will need braces a year from now, with an anticipated cost of $5,000.

If available, one of the best options is a flex-spending account through the patient’s (or parent’s) employer. Flex-spending allows a person to set aside a certain amount of money each paycheck for medical or dental expenses. The money is withdrawn from his paycheck prior to estimating payroll taxes, and as long as the person uses it for the intended purpose it’s not taxed when withdrawn.

If the flex-plan is not available, a patient might establish a special savings account. He can request his bank to automatically transfer a set amount of money once or twice each month. Automatic transfers make it less likely that he would spend the money before depositing it.

Short Term Solutions

But what if the procedure must be done right now? The first option is a given—determine what, if any, insurance the patient has that will cover this expense. While some dental plans are very good, most leave a lot to be desired. In those cases, as a businessperson your next question should be, “Will you be paying the balance with cash, credit card, or would you prefer pre-authorized checking?”

Many of you are already using credit cards. But for those who aren’t the best advice would be to shop around. Competition is fierce, and companies are definitely NOT alike in cards offered, cost of equipment, fee structure, or service provided. Look for a company that offers the four major credit cards—MasterCard, VISA, Discover, and American Express—under one system. There should be only one set-up fee even if a number of different cards are offered, and the percentage per transaction should be the same regardless of which card is used. The equipment you lease or purchase should be an electronic system rather than the “old fashioned” manual operation. This will allow you to process the payment within 48-hours rather than waiting days for it to go through the postal system.

Pre-authorized checking, or bank drafting as it’s more commonly called, is a payment system that will soon replace invoicing. Although the system has been around for over 20 years, until recently it was only offered through banks to large companies—insurance companies, mortgage firms, and health clubs, for example. Now this program is available to all businesses regardless of size, and for a fraction of the cost.

Using this method of payment, patients sign a form authorizing you to debit their checking account for a certain dollar amount, and on a specified day, each month. Normally this amount would include the monthly payment plus a service fee to cover the cost of the bank draft. This way your practice doesn’t bear the cost of extending credit. Your office faxes the pre-authorization form to the processing company, and on the agreed upon day the company delivers a bank draft for each person in the program directly to your office. These look exactly like a check, and are made out in your name. You deposit them into your account exactly as if the patient had sent you the check himself.

If the check “bounces,” there is a companion program called Check Collect™ and it’s offered at no cost to your practice. Checks are collected electronically directly through the Federal Reserve System, as is the fee for collection allowed by your state. There are no embarrassing phone calls or collection letters, and no staff time to collect NSF checks. Most importantly, you receive the full face value of the check.

Conclusion

It takes time to learn about the available alternatives in your community. But if you honestly want your patients to agree to the long-term or expensive unanticipated care, necessary for their health and well-being, it’s important to do this preliminary work for them. The easier you can make the process for your patients, the more likely they are to agree to treatment.

 




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