In a perfect world, a dental office should never have to do billing or send out statements to patients.

In a perfect world, every patient would pay his/her portions on or before the date of service and all insurance companies would always pay what the front desk thought the companies were going to pay.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? Sigh...

So, once a month, a dental practice must do its billing. Because of the numerous amounts of practice management software that exist, it would be impossible for us to tell you how to pull up that report, so if you don’t know how, be sure to ask someone in the office or contact your practice management support.

So, let’s take a step back for a second.
As insurance payments come in during the month, those payments are applied to specific patient accounts. Now, because the front desk had previously estimated the co-pay amount, the added insurance payment should bring the patient’s account to zero. But, why doesn’t that always happen? Sometimes the insurance company pays less than the front desk expected, sometimes the front desk missed some fine print on the dental plan, and sometimes the insurance company made a mistake.

When insurance payments come back to the office, they are accompanied by an Explanation of Benefits (an EOB). It is important to read through the EOB, especially when the payment was not what was expected, to determine what happened and to learn from that for the future. We do our best to estimate, but sometimes the insurance payment is more than we expected and sometimes it is less than we expected. It’s easy to contact a patient and tell him that the insurance paid more than was anticipated and that money from the office is due back to the patient. It’s a tougher phone call to make when the insurance estimate made by the office was too low and that the patient owes more. If you remember from the financial consult discussion, this is why we stress that it’s important to tell the patient that any fees quoted by the office are only estimates. Some offices over estimate patient portions to more likely ensure that the patient will not owe any additional after insurance has paid. (This cannot be done with in network plans.) Those offices simply refund their patients any overage once the insurance company has paid.

So, as these payments come in throughout the month and it is determined that a patient now has a balance due, that patient must receive a billing statement. Your practice management software can track when statements were printed. Ideally, the practice would want to become so proficient at financial consultations that the number of statements sent out each month would be less than the month before. Make that a goal.

Once a month, the front desk team should run a billing report to see who else in the practice owes money. Some of offices will send a statement the first month and then call the patient if the balance is still there at the two month mark. The call can be done by the front desk and just be a friendly, “Hi there! This is Jenny from Dr. Smith’s office. I am calling because I see there is a balance due on your account. I thought I could save you stamp if you could pay for it over the phone today.” You would be surprised at how many patients appreciate the call. A lot of them are busy and haven’t had time to open their mail. The call should be super friendly.

After all, who is going to hand over money (even though technically they owe it to you anyway) if you are a big meanie?