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Patient Payments – Now Or Later?

Many patients have dental insuranceNow or Later, and among your first business decisions will be determining which insurance plans to accept.  You also have to make a decision regarding patients who don’t have dental plans—are you willing to allow patient payments for some more expensive services.

This is a big question.  Many dentists try to avoid this issue, because there is a significant risk of either not being paid or being paid very late.  But you will find a number of patients who can’t afford to pay for some procedures outright.  And you may decide for business—or for personal—reasons to allow these people to pay over time.

One business advantage to this (for a new practice) is that you can attract new patients and build goodwill.  But the downside is that if you have a number of patients who are paying over time, you could create some significant cash flow problems for yourself.

One possibility is to look for local financing sources that would be willing to provide loans to patients for dental service.  There are also some national sources that may be available.

Another approach is to set a limit on the amount of work that you’d be willing to accept payments for over time.  A crown that costs $800 might be hard for a patient to manage as one payment, but the patient could handle it over two or three payments. If you don’t get paid for the procedure for whatever reason, it’s not a crushing loss.  However, work that costs several thousand dollars may be more than you’re willing to risk.

So it’s a bit of a balancing act, you want to find a position that lets you accept more patients and do more work, but you don’t want to create unnecessary risk for your business, especially when it’s new.

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