Dental Debt Collection Calls: 2 Payment Excuses You Can Be Ready For


contactMaking collection calls is a delicate task. On the one hand you need to be persistent and firm in order to recover the money you are owed, and on the other hand you need to maintain a positive relationship with the patient you are dealing with. Sometimes patients can be argumentative and will respond poorly to you calling them about an unpaid bill. And in many cases, patients will have a litany of excuses for why they failed to pay.

For many dental office managers and front desk staff, the key to making these difficult conversations go as smoothly as possible is simply being prepared. So how do you prepare for a collection call and how can you put you or your staff at ease before picking up the phone? We suggest having a list of prepared responses or a script on hand to guide you through these tricky patient interactions.

Not sure what we mean? Here are two examples of common payment excuses and effective responses your staff can use if confronted with a similar situation: 

Scenario #1: “I thought my insurance covered my entire bill.”

Confusion over insurance coverage and how much a patient needs to pay out of pocket is one of the most common reasons for failed payment. Patients will often forget about a deductible or copay payment or assume that the entire bill was covered by insurance and that no further action is required. When this occurs, when speaking with the patient about their past-due account, you or your staff could kindly respond by saying, “We apologize for the confusion. On future visits we would be happy to review your insurance policy with you ahead of time and go over exactly which services are covered and how much of the balance you will personally be responsible for. For your latest visit, you still owe a deductible balance of $75 and will then be current on all your accounts with us. How would you like to pay today?” By asking how the patient would like to pay and not if the patient would like to pay, you are initiating a smooth transition from alleviating confusion to getting the account settled and your office paid in full.

Scenario #2: “I didn’t expect my bill to be that much.”

Dentists often tell us that one excuse they hear over and over again is that patients don’t expect their dental care to cost as much as it did. This is especially true for those self-pay patients or patients with high-deductible, low premium insurance plans. So when a patient responds to your collection call by saying, “I can’t pay right now because I didn’t expect my bill to be that much,” there are a couple things you can do to resolve the current payment issue and prevent similar problems in the future. To get the current balance settled, offer the patient a payment arrangement. If the bill is too much for them to pay all at once, schedule monthly payments that will allow the patient to pay in smaller increments but will still result in your office receiving the money you deserve. It may take slightly longer to be paid in full than originally planned, but you will have a clear picture for the account and a reliable timetable for your accounts receivable.

IfeaturedAfter settling on a mutually beneficial payment arrangement, conclude the call by reminding the patient that you would be more than willing to offer an estimate of the costs associated with their dental treatment before all future visits. This will allow the patient to make an educated decision on the affordability of their dental insurance or dental treatment and will help prevent future delinquencies.

So don’t underestimate the power of being prepared when it comes to making collection calls. Follow these tips and compile a list of the more common excuses you hear from slow-paying patients. Then, teach your staff to have a predetermined (effective yet patient-friendly) response ready so that these overdue accounts can quickly and efficiently be resolved.

YOUR TURN: What are some of the more common payment excuses or disputes you hear from patients? How do you handle difficult, slow-paying clients? Have you tried using scripts when making collection calls? We want to hear from you!


No Legal Advice Intended:  This communication is for informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances.  This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and I.C. System, Inc.  You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal issues.


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