Charging a Pandemic Transmission Protection Fee
For decades now, dental offices have been very thorough with sterilizing their offices. The AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s truly paved the way in taking that step back and analyzing any vulnerability we as dental professionals have to viruses. However, COVID-19 has proven that there is still some vulnerability that we need to address to protect our patients and ourselves. In previous articles we have talked about the vulnerabilities and if you still need to know in depth what they are feel free to reach out to us and we would be happy to send you that information. Today, I want to talk about whether or not your office will collect an additional fee from your patients in order to help pay for the massive additional expenses the office is taking on in order to protect everyone from this terrible virus.
The cost of a box of surgical face-masks before COVID-19 hit US soil was about $12 per box (depending on the brand), today the average cost is $26 per box. That is not the N95 masks that each clinical team member needs to be wearing, this is the disposable surgical mask that dental teams have been using the last few decades. The cost for a box of gloves has just about doubled as well. Now we also need face shields, air purifiers, temperature readings, can only hand scale, the list goes on and on with every new change offices need to implement in order to protect our patients.
During this pandemic we are seeing the vast majority of offices collecting an additional fee for each patient visit in order to pay for all this additional equipment. Most of our offices are charging $10 extra for each visit, while I know some that are charging $15-20 for each visit because the demand in their area has skyrocketed the costs. Whatever it is that you need to charge in your practice the best advice I can give you is to let your patients know about the additional charge prior to them coming in for their appointment.
The only pushback that we have seen from patients in offices is from offices that did not tell the patients about the additional fee for their appointment until the patient went to check out. Once we developed a letter informing the patients of the changes that office is taking (including the fee), there were no more issues with the patients paying the additional fee. Everyone is aware of the issues this pandemic is having on businesses because they are feeling it in their own lives as well. Thankfully this is why most people have been very understanding once the time is taking to inform them of these changes and why they are happening.
Some insurance companies are paying for this fee; some are not going to pay for it. It is going to be best to charge the patient at the time of service, and then bill the code to see if their policy covers it. If it does then the patient will have a credit, if they don’t then the patient won’t have a surprise bill. The code that we have been informed to use is D1999 – this is a by report code so you will need to explain what the fee is for. The phrase we have encouraged our teams to use is “Pandemic Transmission Protection Fee” because this is a fee that we are not planning on needing forever. It is meant to be used for this very critical time, and when are able to get past the pandemic we can stop charging the fee. When we get to the end of this pandemic we will know better if some of these changes will be permanent, and if they are permanent then the fee schedule will need to be reviewed (but that is for us to determine later on down the road).
COVID-19 has taken a huge toll on our world: needing to maintain social distancing, wearing masks in public when social distancing is not possible, putting a halt to our economy, and developing high demand for PPE materials (in the corporate and private sectors). There is an unusual tension in the air, everyone wants to get out of their homes yet are still uneasy about venturing into public spaces. In order for people to take the risk of coming out of their homes they need to know that they are protecting themselves and that the businesses they are going to are taking all the necessary steps as well. Take the time beforehand to inform your patients of the changes taking place in your office, and try to be patient with them. We are all feeling the stress of this virus, and we all need to give each other extra tender, loving care.
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Chris Ciardello, Consultant
Chris Ciardello joined Global Team Solutions as a consultant in 2013. As a practice management consultant, Chris is passionate about sharing his expertise in the areas of technology and marketing as it pertains to the dental office. Chris has a distinctive knack for understanding the needs of an office and he communicates those needs to the team, which creates a cohesive, productive atmosphere. He is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants and Toastmasters International.
He can be reached at: Chris@GTSgurus.com.