Does Dental Insurance Cover Crowns?
September 18, 2023
The reimbursement process for dental crowns varies depending on factors like your dental insurance plan’s details, the policies of the dental office, and whether the dental office is in-network with your insurance plan. Read on for a general overview of the typical reimbursement process, as well as tips and tricks for streamlining your dental billing or dental reimbursement practice.
How does the reimbursement process work for dental crowns?
Because the reimbursement process for dental crowns is rather complicated, we can’t give a definitive answer as to whether or not a dental crown will be covered by insurance. Instead, we’re outlining the major factors that determine dental crown reimbursement.
Consultation and Examination: During your dental visit, the dentist will assess your oral health and determine if a crown is medically necessary. This may involve X-rays and other diagnostic procedures.
Treatment Plan and Cost Estimate: If a crown is recommended, a treatment plan will be outlined, including an estimate of the cost involved.
Insurance Verification: The dental office usually verifies your insurance benefits to see if crowns are covered and what percentage of the cost will be reimbursed by the insurance plan.
Pre-Authorization: Some insurance plans require pre-authorization for dental crowns. In such cases, the dentist will send a treatment plan and any necessary diagnostic information to the insurance company for approval.
Procedure and Billing:
Treatment: Once pre-authorization (if required) is secured, the dental crown procedure takes place. This often involves at least two visits: one for preparing the tooth and taking impressions, and another for fitting the permanent crown.
Claim Submission: After the crown is placed, the dental office prepares and submits a claim to the insurance company. This claim includes specific procedure codes and may include additional documentation like X-rays.
In-Network vs. Out-of-Network: If the dentist is in-network, the dental office will usually bill the insurance company directly and receive the covered payment from them. You'll then be billed for any remaining balance, including deductibles or copayments. If the dentist is out-of-network, you may need to pay upfront and then submit a claim to the insurance company for reimbursement.
Explanation of Benefits (EOB): After the claim is processed, the insurance company issues an Explanation of Benefits (EOB). This document outlines what procedures were covered, what amount was paid by the insurance, and any balance you are responsible for.
Payment: Depending on your dental office’s billing policies and whether they are in-network, either the payment will be made directly to the dental office or you will be reimbursed if you had to pay upfront.
Settling Remaining Balances: If there are balances not covered by the insurance, you will receive a bill from the dental office. Some dental offices offer payment plans or financing options.
- Coverage Percentage: Dental crowns are often considered a "major" dental service and might be covered at a lower rate, for example, 50% as opposed to 80% for "basic" services like fillings.
- Annual Maximum: Dental insurance often has an annual maximum coverage amount. If you have reached this limit, the crown may not be covered until the next coverage year starts.
- Least Expensive Alternative Treatment (LEAT): Your insurance might only cover up to the cost of the least expensive, clinically acceptable alternative treatment, even if a more expensive crown is recommended.
- Material of the Crown: The type of material used for the crown (porcelain, ceramic, metal alloy, etc.) may also affect insurance coverage, as some plans might only cover specific materials.
To fully understand your specific insurance coverage, it's best to consult your dental office's billing department and your insurance company.
How might the dental crown reimbursement process be improved?
Improving the reimbursement process for dental crowns could benefit both dental practices and patients. Here are some ideas to streamline and improve the process:
For Dental Practices
Digital Claims Submission: Encourage electronic filing of claims to expedite the process and reduce the chance of errors.
Real-time Verification: Integrate real-time insurance verification systems to check patient eligibility and benefits on the spot, reducing the need for pre-authorization delays.
Standardized Coding: Implement standardized coding practices across the board to minimize denials based on technicalities.
Pre-Treatment Estimates: Use technology to calculate and present pre-treatment estimates that include insurance coverage and out-of-pocket expenses, reducing financial surprises for patients.
Regular Training: Staff should undergo regular training to stay updated on the insurance policies and regulations that apply to dental crowns. This helps in submitting flawless claims.
Automated Follow-up: Use automated systems for following up on pending or denied claims.
Transparency: Clear, open lines of communication with patients about what to expect in terms of costs, insurance reimbursement, and their financial responsibility can help to reduce misunderstandings and subsequent payment delays.
For Insurance Companies
Simplified Pre-Authorization: Streamline and digitize the pre-authorization process to reduce approval wait times.
Clarified Policies: Clear, easily accessible guidelines about what is and isn’t covered can help both providers and patients.
Speedy Processing: Aim for quicker turnaround times for claim processing.
Transparency: Provide clear, itemized statements showing how much has been covered and what remains the patient’s responsibility.
Tiered Coverage Options: Offer various levels of coverage for different types of crowns to give patients more choice and flexibility.
Direct Payment: Implement direct payment options where the insurance reimbursement goes directly to the dental practice, saving time for everyone involved.
AI and Analytics: Use AI-powered analytics tools to automate routine checks and flag irregularities, which can help in speeding up the approval process.
Patient Portals: Utilize patient portals that allow patients to check the status of their claims and out-of-pocket expenses, which can minimize calls and queries to both insurance companies and dental offices.
Feedback Mechanism: Establish a feedback loop between dental practices and insurance companies to continually improve the process based on real-world experiences and challenges.
Blockchain Technology: For long-term, consider using blockchain technology to create immutable, transparent records of transactions. This could potentially eliminate many disputes and speed up claim processing.
Regular Audits and Reviews: Periodically review the reimbursement process to identify bottlenecks and implement solutions.
Case Managers: Insurance companies can appoint case managers to handle complex or high-cost cases, expediting the reimbursement process.
By optimizing these aspects of the reimbursement process, dental practices and insurance companies can reduce administrative burden, lower costs, and improve patient satisfaction.
Are you a dental billing specialist? Try these tricks to optimize your practice.
Optimizing dental billing can be crucial for a practice’s financial health and operational efficiency. As dental billing specialists, our experts at SuperBill are here to share some tricks and tips that could help optimize your dental billing procedures.
1. Verify Insurance Prior to Appointments
- Pre-Verification: Always pre-verify insurance eligibility and benefits before the patient’s appointment. This helps to prevent insurance issues from delaying payment.
2. Use Accurate Procedure Codes
- Consistency: Ensure that you are using the most current and accurate CDT (Current Dental Terminology) codes for procedures to minimize claim denials.
3. Streamline Claim Submission
- Electronic Submission: Use electronic claim submission systems to speed up the process and track claims in real-time.
- Batch Processing: Submit claims in batches at the end of each day or week to maintain a steady cash flow.
4. Track and Follow-Up
- Claim Tracking: Regularly track the status of submitted claims.
- Automated Reminders: Use automated reminders to follow up on unpaid or denied claims.
5. Regular Training
- Staff Education: Regularly train your billing team on the latest insurance policies, coding changes, and software tools to keep them updated.
6. Offer Multiple Payment Options
- Flexibility: Offer a variety of payment options like online payment, direct debit, and payment plans to make it easier for patients to settle their bills.
7. Regular Audits
- Billing Audit: Conduct periodic internal or external audits to identify mistakes, inefficiencies, or fraudulent activities.
8. Use Data Analytics
- Performance Metrics: Utilize data analytics to track key performance indicators like claim denial rates, time-to-payment, and patient payment behaviors.
9. Maintain Clear Communication
- Transparency: Always maintain clear and open lines of communication with patients about their estimated costs, insurance coverage, and payment options.
10. Outsource When Necessary
- Specialized Help: Consider outsourcing complex or troublesome aspects of billing to a specialized dental billing service like SuperBill’s.
11. Patient Education
- Financial Policy: Make sure that patients are aware of your office’s financial policies to avoid misunderstandings later.
12. Streamline Pre-Authorizations
- Digital Submission: If pre-authorizations are required, submit them electronically, and ensure that all required documentation, like X-rays or treatment plans, are included.
13. Utilize Software Tools
- Billing Software: Use specialized dental billing software that allows for claim tracking, automated reminders, and analytics.
14. Stay Updated
- Industry News: Keep an eye on changes in dental billing procedures, insurance company policies, and federal and state regulations to remain compliant and efficient.
By implementing these tips, a dental billing specialist can not only improve revenue cycle management but also contribute to better patient satisfaction and overall practice efficiency.