Why Practice Plan's approach to the new Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) is the only one I'll promote to my patients

Lesley Morgan-Barlow — Joint Owner & Business Manager : Synergy Dental Care

“I can hear the yawns already!! Insurance. Distribution. Directive. Not the most exciting subject in the world, but certainly three words that  could have created huge turmoil between our patients and practice  team, so if you offer a dental plan in your practice, stick with me!  IDD is a new piece of EU legislation that impacts the way the  insurance element of your dental plan is organised and promoted to  patients. So, with effect from 1st October 2018, where insurance is  integrated with another product which is not insurance (i.e. a dental  plan), the customer must be offered the ‘possibility’ of buying the  product separately from the insurance (i.e. the patient can have their dental plan ‘with’ insurance or ‘without).

On the surface, that all sounds simple enough – we ask the patient one simple question, right?! ‘Would you like your dental plan with insurance that covers you in the event of unforeseen dental emergency and/or trauma, or would you like your dental plan without insurance and so in the event of unforeseen dental emergency and/or trauma, your treatment would not be covered?’ Our patients are at the heart of our dental plan membership – and its purpose is to meet the needs of patients wanting to maintain high standards of oral health and for us, this should extend to include provision for unforeseen accidents and emergencies as standard.

The peace of mind that patients get knowing that if emergency treatment is required, they’re able to request assistance for treatment without delay is priceless, especially given it’s not always easy for patients to fund the cost of treatment following a serious dental trauma. So, moving to a model where we would have to start asking patients whether they wanted this valuable part of the plan was alien to us.

After bringing the team together to talk this new directive through, it was clear that offering patients a choice where the insurance was concerned came with many risks and concerns.

The biggest of these was around not being able to offer our patients advice on whether they should take the insurance or not. By offering advice, we would run the risk of breaching FCA regulations, but at the same time it wasn’t going to be an easy conversation with the patient explaining why we couldn’t offer any advice on what they should or shouldn’t do. We pride ourselves on trust and loyalty and feel that working in this way would begin to compromise our patient relationship.

Not only that, we at the practice would have to keep track of those patients who took out insurance with their plan versus those who decided against it. How else would we know who was eligible to make a claim for emergency treatment? In addition, and in my opinion a more worrying aspect was with regards to our out-of-hours rota – just thinking about how other dentists would know which of our patients requiring treatment were covered under the insurance absolutely baffled me. I work with a plan provider so that they can take this administrative burden away from me and the team, not to add extra levels of complexity into the mix. Lucky for us though, whilst we have two plan providers in existence in our practice, Practice Plan is the plan of choice and the one we offer to all new patients. Whilst this directive comes into force from 1st October 2018, as expected, Practice Plan had the foresight to act way ahead of time and in January 2018, launched their new Worldwide Dental Emergency Assistance Scheme* (the Scheme) which operates on a discretionary basis. The Scheme is not an insurance product and is therefore not impacted by the Insurance Distribution Directive - as a result, it can form part of a dental plan and therefore be made available to all dental plan patients.

We’ve had this Scheme in place since the start of 2018 and the team are completely comfortable with the process when we sign up new patients to our membership plan and when we respond to existing patients who need emergency assistance under this Scheme. In all honesty, it wasn’t until Practice Plan contacted me that I became familiar with the directive, but once they explained their rationale for their solution, I started to fully appreciate the impact and levels of complexity that it could have on our practice if dealt with in an alternative way. As mentioned though, we do still have a small number of patients on plan with an alternative plan provider – not for much longer I hope! We have only recently received communication about their proposed response to IDD and without consultation, we find ourselves in the middle of the nightmare we were so hoping to avoid. Whilst we don’t offer this plan to new patients, all of our existing patients on this plan will be written to during October and November asking whether they’d like to remove the insurance from their plan. Administrative nightmare!

Legislative changes like these, whilst out of our hands, are sometimes difficult to understand let alone implement. However, I feel that the solution that Practice Plan has provided us with has enabled us to navigate through these changes with minimal disruption and no deterioration in the level of service we provide to our patients. Josie, our Regional Support Manager, even tells me that after operating the Scheme for 9 months, Practice Plan have accepted 97.8% of requests for assistance under the Scheme which is no surprise but reassuring all the same. If you’re not comfortable with your current plan provider’s approach to IDD, why not give Practice Plan a call – they would be happy to talk you through their solution in more detail and even put you in touch with practices like ours who, since the beginning of 2018, have been offering the discretionary Scheme as an integral part of their dental plan.

* The scheme allows patients to request assistance in the event of unforeseen dental trauma  and dental emergencies. As a wholly discretionary scheme, it is for the scheme manager to decide how the scheme will respond to the requests for assistance. This means that whilst the scheme manager expects to accept most requests, there may be circumstances in which the scheme manager may decide to pay no benefit – a fairly obvious example of when that may happen is if a patient suffers a self-inflicted injury.

"It was clear that offering patients a choice where the insurance was concerned came with many risks and concerns."

"I started to fully appreciate the impact and levels of complexity that it could have on our practice if dealt with in  an alternative way"

Lesley explains...

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