InsuranceDentists have always had a love-hate relationship with dental insurance companies. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it is a relationship that has been strained - in some cases to the breaking point - because dentistry has been moving forward and evolving in exciting ways, while insurance models have not changed much since they were introduced in the late 1960s.

Back then, insurance was a boon to dentistry, as it made it easy for patients to say yes by covering the cost for most of the treatments they were likely to need. Today, of course, we know that insurance, at best, will offset a portion of costs for some treatment needs. And many of the best procedures you offer will probably not be covered at all. Nowadays, insurance is not the catalyst it once was to getting patients to act. More often, it stands in the way of patients getting the treatment they need.

But here is the important thing to keep in mind: Despite the frustrations you will experience with insurance companies - the limits, the predeterminations, the billing rules, and so on - your battle is not really with them. Your battle is with your patients’ mindsets about insurance. After all, you’re not likely to get insurance companies to change their policies; your only hope is to get patients to change their outlook and their expectations about insurance.

Admittedly, this is not always an easy thing to do, especially when you are dealing with patients who grew up thinking that their dental care is something that should always be covered. But you do have one reality on your side, and it is a truism I have pointed out many times before: people are always willing to pay for something they truly value.

That’s where your focus needs to be on this issue: not on fighting insurance companies, but on changing patient perceptions. And it’s not as hard as you might think. If you haven’t already, I urge you to review this team-centered online course about communicating to patients about insurance, where you will find an example of the language you can use to have this conversation, along with a step-by-step implementation plan.

(Click this link to learn more about practice management from Imtiaz Manji.)