Thursday, August 21, 2014

CONFUSION ABOUT ACA'S REQUIRED PEDIATRIC DENTAL BENEFITS


The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance marketplaces to offer pediatric dental benefits to all consumers, whether or not a consumer has children.  Dental benefits for adults are not required, but some health plans may offer them.  There are also stand-alone dental plans available in every state, some offering only pediatric dental benefits while others offer family services.
Currently confusion reigns concerning dental benefits offered by various plans.  Ambiguous information about medical plans with embedded pediatric dental benefits and about stand-alone dental plans as well means it is virtually impossible for consumers to make informed choices about which plan to buy.
Among medical plans with embedded pediatric dental benefits, 34% do not have a separate dental deductible which means the consumer will have to meet significant medical deductibles before receiving any dental benefits.  One recent study reported consumers in this group might have to meet an annual deductible of almost $3,000 for other healthcare services before receiving any benefits toward dental care.
This is a typical example of the lack of transparency and limited information available to potential buyers of healthcare insurance.  Many national and state professional dental organizations are working to improve transparency of dental benefit plans, but no action has yet resulted in clarification of what is available in various marketplaces or how one plan compares to another.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

GRANTS AVAILABLE FROM HEALTHY SMILES, HEALTHY CHILDREN FOUNDATION


Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children is the Foundation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.  Through August 18, HSHC is accepting applications for one year matching grants of up to $20,000 that support community-based activities to secure a dental home for children up to age 18 from families unable to afford dental care.  A “dental home” is that facility where the child is made to feel welcome and comfortable and receives care necessary for his/her oral health.  The grant monies can be used for a wide variety of services, such as dental care, clinic supplies and instruments, educational materials, take-home supplies, outreach to recruit participants in oral care delivery programs, etc.

For guidelines and applications, go to www.aapd.org/foundation/kids.  For additional information, visit  www.healthysmileshealthychildren.org

Monday, August 4, 2014

ASSESS FLUORIDE LEVEL IN YOUR COMMUNITY’S WATER

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all water suppliers to issue annual Water Quality Reports on the status of water, including fluoride levels, in the communities they serve. The 2014 report is to be published by July 1 and should be distributed via USPS mail, enclosed with water bills, or posted online. Following the report publication and distribution is a good time for dentists to emphasize to patients the value of fluoridation, to actively support their community’s water fluoridation program, and to express appreciation to water plant personnel who are hands-on responsible for fluoridating the water supply. Since antifluoridation proponents are still working to get the addition of fluoride to water supplies banned across the country, this is an opportunity for dentists to show their support for the program in their area.


For more information, go to the “My Water’s Fluoride” page on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or go to the EPA website: http://water.epa.gov/drink/local/index.cfm/drink/local/index.cfm

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

DID YOU KNOW?


A recent study showed almost 75% of private dental practices did not give across the board pay raises to staff members in 2013, relying instead on bonuses to reward staff.  Of those that did give raises, 72% limited increases to 2% to 3%.

There is a new 3.8% Medicare Payroll Tax on high income (above $200,000 if single; above $250,000 if married) earners’ unearned income; that is, dividends, interest, capital gains, and rental income.  However, the IRS recently reversed its position on one form of rental income, stating that rent the practice pays to the dentist-owner of the office building is not subject to the 3.8% Medicare Payroll tax.  Good news for dentists whose practice rents office space that is owned by that dentist.

As of April 8, 2014, Microsoft discontinued its technical support for Windows XP.  Windows XP antivirus software, Microsoft Security Essentials, will be updated regularly until July 14, 2015.  If you are a Windows XP user, it is time to consider transitioning to Windows 7, 8, or 8.1.  The HIPAA Security Rule requires covered practices to be aware of privacy threats and to implement security measures.  Older operating systems like Windows XP are more vulnerable to viruses, hackers, and data crashes, security risks that could expose users to liability in case of a data breach that compromises patient privacy or confidentiality.  Suggestion:  if your practice computer operates on Windows XP, contact your computer vendor as soon as possible for advice and help in updating to a newer Windows system.

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear a case in which the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners “sought to, and did, exclude nondentist providers from the market for teeth whitening services.”  The Federal Trade Commission’s claim against the NC Board for violation of antitrust laws was upheld by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.  ADA general counsel, Craig Busey, stated, “This case is important because it threatens to impede the ability of all professional boards, including dental boards, to fulfill the purpose for which they were created….Boards’ actions should be protected from the federal antitrust laws under the well-recognized state action exemption.”  The SCOTUS will hear the case in its Fall 2014 session.       

Thursday, July 10, 2014

RECENT CHANGES IN THE DENTAL PROFESSION

Prior to the 2008 economic crisis, the most significant changes to affect dentistry in over a decade had been: (1) increasing regulations via OSHA, HIPPA, EPA, and a number of other government regulations and monitoring agencies, and (2) changes in third party payer rules, regulations, and payment schedules. Shortly before and certainly following the 2008 economic turndown, many additional factors began to affect the dental profession.


Among these factors: passage of the Affordable Care Act; new dental care delivery models with wrangles over independent practice for hygienists, expanded duty auxiliaries, “whitening clinics”, and sealants applied by non-dentists; gigantic, multi-location practices; practices owned by management companies; PPOs and other preferred provider networks; changing payment schedules by third party payers; reduction in consumer demand for dental care; etc. We are also seeing the construction of more dental schools, among them for-profit schools; rising debt of dental students; lower income for many dentists; changes in dental benefits provided by employers; and changes in consumers’ choices of dental services.
Specifics about some of the changes:
  • The impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unclear, primarily due to the continuing number of revisions. There is also on-going confusion among insurance companies, Federal and State insurance exchanges, and consumers. Predictions are that under the ACA, payment for all healthcare services from any third party payer (private dental insurance, private-pay patients, or Medicaid) will be based on outcome or value rather than basing payments on      procedures as has been done historically. (Does that sound confusing? IT IS!!) Obviously, a successful outcome and perceived value of dental treatment are     subjective, not objective, judgments. Therefore, it remains unclear how payment schedules will be set.
  • 1990-2002—patient spending on dental care increased 3% to 4% annually. 2002-2008—flat to slight spending increases.
    2008-until now—spending flat or slightly decreased.
  • The percentage of adults without a “dental home” continues to increase, resulting in doubling the number of people who seek emergency dental care in a hospital emergency room.
  • In a 2012 survey, 42% of solo practitioners reported a “busyness” problem with open chair time that resulted in reduced production.
  • In spite of a decline in General Dentistry practice owners’ earnings for the past five years, non-owner dentists’ salaries have rebounded to the pre-2006 level which was a peak for dentists’ earnings. (Does this say that practice ownership is or may become a disadvantage? That concept flies in the face of the historically independent nature of the majority of dentists.)
  • Between 2000-2012, there was a significant decline in the demand for dental care by patients ages 21–64. However, dental spending for children and seniors (65 and over) increased during this same time period.
These and many other changes portend a new dental marketplace. All involved in the dental profession—private practitioners, administrators, educators, researchers, product and service vendors, and dental professional organizations must use all available data to plan successfully for the future. The one assurance is that the practice of dentistry will not remain as we’ve known it in the past.
The American Dental Association Health Policy Resources Center is the source of this information. For further details in the report plus many other facts about changes in the profession, go to www.ada.org. Choose the Science/Research heading and click on Health Policy Institute (formerly the Health Policy Resources Center).

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

PART-TIME STAFF CAN BE COST EFFECTIVE


Recently there has been much in the news about part-time employees in business and industry.  Some large companies have increased part-time positions to save the cost of having to provide health insurance to full- time employees under conditions of the Affordable Care Act.  Another topic under discussion that will affect both full-time and part-time is an increase in the minimum wage.  Many dentists too have begun to consider increasing the number of part-timers on staff for a number of other reasons.

Dentists are finding that part-time staff can be used to add to staff during busy production times and work fewer hours or not at all when production is down, thereby saving payroll costs.  Additionally, when the dentist is not seeing patients, it is understood that part-time staff will not be in the office in contrast to full-timers who expect to work a regular schedule.  Another reason, part-time work is often favored by women with children at home, thereby widening the field of potential staff members.   And part-time staff members familiar with patients and practice routine make excellent substitutes when full-time staff must be out.  Yet another reason for using some part-time staff is the cost savings from limiting or not providing fringe benefits.

One or more well trained part-time staff members may be a great boon for your practice.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

HELP WITH YOUR WEBSITE DESIGN


While there are many website design and service companies, a particular one in which you might be interested is PBHS, a website and marketing services provider endorsed by the American Dental Association’s Business Resources, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ADA.  PBHS, supporting the dental profession since 1977, custom-designs websites for dentists and provides on-going site and marketing services as well. 

An effective, attractive website design is a key to practice growth.  Further, your website must present a modern design with quality educational information about your services and procedures, a look at your office, and facts about the doctors and staff.  As fast as technology evolves, an effective website must be continuously edited, modified, and up-dated so that it invites perusal by those shopping for a new dental care provider.  In this social-media age, a dental practice must have an on-line presence that exemplifies the reputation an owner wants his or her practice to present.  Most new patients check out websites and, often, Facebook pages of a variety of practices before deciding which to call for a first examination appointment. 

Satisfied dental customers testify that PBHS-designed websites are easy to navigate, bring compliments from current patients,  and provide information to shoppers in ways that attract new patients.  For more information go to www.pbhs.com or call 1-855-WEB-4ADA (1-855-932-4232).