Dental care that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
Valley Family Dentistry offers patient payment plan through membership program
Proper dental care can quickly empty pockets, especially when a patient isn’t insured. From X-rays and examinations to cleanings and major treatment, some people might be tempted to delay or forgo trips to the dentist’s office. Inaction can exacerbate problems, so Dr. Brenda Landeros of Valley Family Dentistry in Harlingen came up with a solution: Formulate a payment plan that would cater to uninsured patients as well as individuals needing assistance with mounting bills.
Enter Valley Family Dentistry’s Membership Club.
“We took the most common procedures that I feel need to be basic access to care,” Landeros said about creating the program. “It’s a shame when patients are not even able to do that. We thought, how can we help these patients?”
Once Landeros recognized the need, it was a matter of designing the membership club alongside her insurance coordinator and a third-party program that manages the patients’ information. And if Landeros and the rest of the staff at Valley Family Dentistry realize the membership club plans could stand to be tweaked, they do it.
“That’s the easy thing about it,” Landeros said. “We control it, so we can implement changes. The patient can use this program as a supplemental, in-house insurance.”
Patients make one lifetime registration payment of $50, then a monthly payment that goes toward preventive services. Depending on the tier they qualify for — there are three, covering children, and adults with and without gum disease — patients are also responsible for paying a monthly fee. A regular adult membership, for example, costs $26. Children’s coverage is $21 per month. A patient with periodontal disease, which necessitates four maintenance visits per year, costs $51.
“Are you going to need all the benefits it provides? Maybe, maybe not,” Landeros said. “You definitely will use the preventive benefits.”
The adult and child membership plans both include two cleanings. The perio membership plan includes four cleanings a year, which is necessary to keep the disease at bay. All three plans include one to two doctor exams, any needed X-rays, and one emergency exam each year.
“If something unforeseen should happen between visits, then they can come in essentially at no out of pocket cost for them on the day of the visit because it’s already covered,” Landeros said. “That’s part of their program. On top of that, if they do require or need any additional dental treatment that’s going to be in the realm of fillings, crowns, root canals, any of that, they get a percentage discounted all across the board on their treatment.”
Under the membership club, treatments deemed necessary during a visit see an automatic 15 percent price discount, though some exclusions may apply. For those in need of major work, like anything beyond fillings, the savings would be significant.
Landeros added that Valley Family Dentistry itself has benefited from the membership club initiative. Patients with periodontal disease need to receive a maintenance dental cleaning once every three months, and individuals who were having a hard time coming up with the money to visit the dentist four times a year were missing appointments. Many dental insurance plans don’t cover the maintenance cleanings. But if periodontal patients forgo treatment for even as little as six months, any progress they made can be erased — the disease can infect their gums again. With the perio membership, though, all four cleanings are covered, meaning there’s no excuse for patients to miss their appointments.
Currently, 20 patients at Valley Family Dentistry are enrolled in the membership club, but that number is poised to grow as more learn about the benefits they stand to gain.
“It’s a win-win,” Landeros said. “We wouldn’t understand why somebody wouldn’t want that.”