How price transparency will change the dental industry for dentists, DSOs and patients

The introduction of price transparency in the healthcare space comes with mixed emotions.

While some players in the field are afraid patients will avoid or refuse care, others are supportive of giving patients more control in their healthcare. Ram Sudireddy, the co-founder and CEO of Bento, a technology company designed to give organizations and individuals access to affordable dental care, is in support of price transparency.

Below, Mr. Sudireddy further explains his backing of price transparency as well as who has control over price transparency in the dental industry.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is stopping price transparency from becoming universal?
Ram Sudireddy: The biggest offenders are the insurance companies that sell fully insured dental benefits to companies. They collect a premium from an employer and employee, and then keep unused premium dollars. Over 92 percent of people never use all of their annual maximum, and insurance companies don’t do refunds. They are incentivized to make it hard for patients to understand cost, and they’re incentivized to reject claims from dentists.

When we started Bento, we asked ourselves, “What’s best for the patient?” Clear, easy-to-understand pricing. I know the cost of an apple before I buy it. Same thing with plane tickets, a car, a house or virtually any other product. Healthcare is the only industry where you don’t have complete certainty on cost. We’re fixing that with dental.

Q: Who has the most influence over price transparency in the dental industry?
RS: Big insurance companies currently hold the keys to the kingdom. Whether they’re selling a fully insured plan, or a self-funded plan, they’re incentivized to make things confusing for patients, dentists and employers.

What makes this especially egregious is that dental insurance is not actually insurance at all. Every other type of insurance, whether it’s home, life, auto, etc. covers patients after they meet their deductible. In the case of traditional health insurance, that coverage can be in the millions of dollars. Dental insurance is the exact opposite. After you hit your annual max, you’re completely out-of-pocket for everything. Dental insurance companies have profited from this confusion for decades.

Q: How will the introduction of price transparency alter the dental industry?
RS: We believe that when we provide everyone the same access to price information, everyone will be happier.

Patients will know what they owe before they get care and have access to their entire dental history in the palm of their hand. If they have an employer plan, they’ll be able to understand what the plan will pay, and what they’re responsible for out-of-pocket.

Dentists and their staff will be happier because they won’t have to deal with the headaches of constantly calling insurance companies to figure out what’s left in employer plans, what percentages each procedure is covered at, and dealing with the supervision of pre-treatment estimates. They’ll be able to give their patients the care they need, when they need it.

Employers will be happy because they can manage costs by reducing premium waste and never pay for care their employees don’t use.

More articles on dental:
North Carolina dentist agrees to $730K Medicaid fraud settlement
Forbes: 3 AI-focused devices to make waves in dental industry
Las Vegas dentist office fire deemed arson by fire department

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