What Are In-House Dental Membership Plans?

Dental membership plans are dental care plans that practices provide to their patients. Think of an in-house membership program like Amazon Prime, but for your dental practice.

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Fred Joyal
Head of Membership Growth
10 min read
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Dental Membership Plans 101

Dental membership plans are care plans that practices provide to their patients. Think of an in-house membership program like Amazon Prime, but for your dental practice.

Patients pay a monthly or yearly fee directly to the dental practice, and in return receive benefits, typically including all standard preventive care, and discounts on other treatments.

Dental plans allow uninsured patients to access simple, comprehensive, and affordable oral care coverage. 


Dentists who offer membership plans generate recurring revenue, increase patient loyalty, reduce dependence on dental insurance, and boost practice value.


It’s a win-win for both practices and patients.  Membership plans are the solution to key problems and barriers facing both parties today:

In this article, I'll highlight why dental insurance is broken, the uninsured patient opportunity, the benefits of membership for patients and practices, as well as how your practice can implement your own in-house dental membership plan today.

Watch the two-minute overview video here.


Dental Insurance is Broken

Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room: dental insurance. 


It’s broken.


Nearly $80 billion is spent on dental care each year in the United States, but only 60% goes to actual dental care – what happens to the remaining $32 billion?

According to a 2018 research paper by the American Dental Association (ADA), fees paid to dentists through private dental insurance plans are significantly lower than market rates. In addition, for the majority of adults, total copayments, coinsurance, and premiums exceed the “market” value of the dental care patients receive.

This means that the insurance middleman is taking a large share of dental industry revenue (25% to 50% according to some estimates), while dentists receive low reimbursements, and patients have to deal with a frustrating and expensive process to access oral care.

I know this isn’t news to you as your practice has experienced declining reimbursement rates for years and your staff is tired of the reimbursement run-around.


Membership plans eliminate the insurance middleman and allow your practice to connect directly with your patients. 


Uninsured Patient Opportunity

97% of Americans value oral health and 85% feel that they need to visit the dentist twice per year:

This is great news for you and your practice, right? 

Well, what people say they need versus what they actually do is very different. 

Especially when it comes to patients without dental benefits.

As your practice has undoubtedly experienced, uninsured patients do not visit the dentist nearly as often and are hesitant to accept treatment.

According to an NADP consumer survey, Americans with dental coverage are: 1) 49% more likely to have visited the dentist in the last 6 months; 2) 42% more likely to take their children to visit a dentist twice per year; and 3) 33% more likely to get periodontal maintenance treatment.

Why?

Patients without coverage feel exposed and uncomfortable when they get in the chair regarding expected costs. This has a material impact on your practice as it is a huge market:


Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States – close to 100 million people - have no form of dental benefit coverage. 


Despite the rise in dental insurance adoption over the past several decades, there are distinct segments of the population who lack coverage.

For example, according to AARP, 10,000 Americans are reaching retirement age every day.  Baby boomers are retiring and are losing dental benefits.  At the other end of the age spectrum, more and more Millennials work in the gig economy (Uber, Etsy, DoorDash, freelancing, etc.) and do not have access to employer sponsored dental care.  Consulting firm McKinsey estimates that there are currently 68 million freelancers or self-employed Americans, and the freelance economy is growing three times faster than the overall workforce.

While this graphic is a bit dated (2015 data), it provides an overview of the dental benefit breakdown across the United States:

The uninsured patient population cannot be ignored and, in fact, represents tremendous opportunity for your dental practice.

Out of the 100 million or so Americans who lack dental benefits, approximately 40% visit the dentist at least once per year.  This means these uninsured patients not only value oral care but are coming in for treatment. 


Dental membership plans are the solution to turn uninsured patients into members and thereby increase patient loyalty, treatment acceptance, and practice net revenue.


Benefits to Uninsured Patients

Simple, Affordable, and Comprehensive Coverage

Uninsured patients want their dentist to offer a membership plan because they receive simple, affordable, and comprehensive dental coverage.

In-house dental membership plans typically include all preventive care and discounts on other procedures for a fixed monthly or annual fee.  Here is an example of a few membership plan overviews:


Enroll in 90-seconds with your dentist

Unlike insurance, patients can enroll in a membership plan from any device, online or in your office, before or after an appointment, in 90-seconds.  Today’s consumers expect a seamless experience and by utilizing cutting-edge dental membership management software, your practice can easily deliver this.


No Paperwork or Reimbursement Claims

With membership plans, patients never wait for insurance claims to come through or deal with overly complex paperwork. 

There is no misunderstanding on coverage limits or exemptions.  Your practice has the opportunity to streamline the benefits offered and take control of the process.


Total Transparency and Easy to Access

Patients today expect transparency.  With dental membership plans, it’s 100% clear to patients exactly what they are paying for and the benefits they receive in exchange. 

There is no complex insurance fine print or annoying phone trees – they are your members, directly.


Benefits to Dental Practices

Generate Recurring Revenue

With dental membership plans, patients pay a subscription fee directly to your practice.  This means you get too collect a steady, recurring revenue stream.

Reliable recurring revenue is critical as it helps practices offset up and down cash months.

For example, if you your average dental membership plan is $30 per month and you have 700 members, your practice will generate $21,000 per month in high-margin, recurring revenue.  Put another way, you turn your hygiene department into a profitable subscription business.

This evergreen revenue stream helps to stabilize your practice and makes the financials easier to manage.


Increase Patient Loyalty

While uninsured patients visit the dentist less often and accept less treatment compared to patients with dental benefits, membership plan patients visit your practice and accept treatment like insured patients.

Why?

Membership plans foster loyalty and eliminate the fear of unexpected costs. This membership effect is evident across all industries. For example, Amazon Prime members spend, on average, 133% more per year than non-Prime Amazon customers. Airlines have been offering frequent flyer programs for decades and Costco’s entire business is based around membership.

Your practice is no different – by converting your uninsured patients into plan members, you’ll see an increase in office visits and treatment acceptance.


On average, membership plan patients visit the dentists 2x more frequently and generate 55% more revenue compared to uninsured patients.


Membership plans are good for your patients' oral health as well as your practice’s bottom line.


Reduce Dependence on Dental Insurance

Declining reimbursement rates are the top industry concern among dentists. 

And they should be.

Over the past 20 years, dental industry revenues grew by 70% while dentist earnings stayed flat.  Dental insurance inflates industry costs and complicates the way dentists run their practice.

Membership plans allow you to ditch the insurance middle man and empower practices to provide quality care to patients while improving cash flow. 


Traditionally, the only winner in dentistry was insurance companies, but with membership plans both the practice and the patient experience a win-win.


The greater proportion of your patients that subscribe to your in-house membership program versus dental insurance, the less power insurance companies hold over the success of your practice.


Increase Practice Value

Membership plan patients are your members. They pay you a subscription fee directly versus premiums to an insurance company.  Depending on your insurance acceptance mix and the discounts you decide to provide with your membership program, membership plan patients generate 20% to 55% more net revenue for your practice compared to insured patients.

In addition, plan members eliminate the time-consuming and costly administrative burden associated with insurance.

Launching and growing a membership program allows your practice to increase revenue and boost net income, without adding new patients. Turning your uninsured patients into plan members means you will get more financial value from your existing patient base, while improving the oral health of your patients.

Subscription revenue is also valued more highly than one-time sales revenue if you decide to sell your practice. Investors like reliable revenue.

There are many books and analyses on the benefits of subscription revenue and it’s likely that a membership plan patient is 1.5x to 3.0x more valuable than an uninsured patient or an insured patient.


Membership plans create a patient and practice partnership that works.


Launch a Membership Program Today

The benefits of launching an in-house membership program are obvious for patients and for your practice’s bottom line. 

However, adoption of your membership plan is not automatic unless you are using the right software, have the right marketing support, and have your entire staff educated on the value proposition.

Fortunately, we have built a membership growth platform to help.


Our Solutions:

Dental Membership Management Software

Our easy-to-use, cloud based-software empowers your practice to create customized membership plans that generate profitable subscription revenue, create loyal members, improve treatment acceptance, and boost practice value.

We create a merchant bank account for your practice, and patient payments are directly deposited. Your team can easily track members, credit card payments, and overall revenue to see how your membership program is performing for you.

The intuitive Pearly Plan Builder makes it simple to create best-in-class membership plans that attract patients.

With Pearly, your patients can signup for a plan in 90-seconds and manage their benefits from any device. We help you deliver a delightful dental membership plan experience from signup to benefit use. Your members can access their plan details from any device, invite friends, and add family members with one-click.


Dental Membership Growth Services

The best software only gets your practice so far - membership growth is a team sport. Our innovative Growth Services turn your dental membership plan adoption on autopilot.

If you walk into any dental office, chances are you’ll hear about their Sales Funnel. But recently, the Sales Funnel has begun to fail, especially when it comes to in-house membership programs. Today, dental patients respond to the right message, at the right time, and listen to word-of-mouth referrals.

The Sales Funnel has one massive flaw - it treats patients and members as an afterthought, not a driving force.

With the Growth Cycle, you educate your patients on the value of membership programs, connect with them at the right moments, and use the momentum of your happy members to drive referrals:

Our team helps you throughout every step of the membership acquisition journey and is committed to your long-term membership success. We combined cutting-edge tools with personalized support and training to help your practice win.

In summary, Pearly is not just a bunch of 1s and 0s. We provide superhero support to help your practice grow with our Membership Success Team and Support Heros.

Join the membership movement and launch a dental membership program today.


To learn more about how you can successfully launch and grow a dental membership program, please book a free demo with a Pearly membership growth consultant here.

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