Supply Costs Continue to Impact Practices
As the number of COVID-19-related deaths drops across the United States and Americans begin to return to some state of normalcy, the effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt as dental practices navigate the financial challenges associated with the outbreak.
As the number of COVID-19-related deaths drops across the United States and Americans begin to return to some state of normalcy, the effects of the pandemic will continue to be felt as dental practices navigate the financial challenges associated with the outbreak. Chief among these is the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE). To meet the challenge of practicing during the pandemic, dental offices have had to purchase PPE beyond the usual pre-pandemic levels, including N95 respirators, face shields, gowns, hair and shoe covers, and similar supplies — often at elevated prices due to supply and demand.1
Some dental offices have raised their fees to offset these extra costs, while others have chosen to absorb them. To help guide practices on coding and billing for PPE, the American Dental Association (ADA) issued a statement on third-party payer reimbursement, suggesting in part that third-party benefits programs should either adjust the maximum allowable fees for all procedures, or allow a standard fee per date or service to accommodate rising PPE costs.2
According to an ADA Health Policy Institute survey, 27.3% of dentists have raised fees to maintain the financial stability of their practice.3 While patient volumes are expected to rebound ever further with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, the need for increased PPE supplies — such as N95 masks and face shields — is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. And though fluctuations in PPE availability are largely behind us, ensuring adequate levels of N95s, exam gloves, gowns and disinfecting supplies remains an issue for some dental practices.3
As vaccine availability continues to ramp up — along with a corresponding uptick in inoculated patients — there is cause for optimism regarding rising demand for care. At the same time, dental practices must continue to factor in the added cost of PPE to the bottom line, especially if procedural volumes increase, as anticipated.
- American Dental Association. COVID-19 Coding and Billing Interim Guidance: PPE. Available at: http/://success.ada.org/~/media/CPS/Files/COVID/P_E_Coding_Billing_Guidance.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2021.
- American Dental Associaton. Statement on Third Party Payer Reimbursement for Costs Associated With Increased Standards for Personal Protective Equipment. Available at: https://success.ada.org/~/media/CPS/Files/COVID/ADA_Third_Party_Payer_Reimbursement_for_PPE.pdf?utm_source=cpsorg&utm_medium=covid-main-lp-pm&utm_content=cv-pm-tpp-ppe&utm_campaign=covid-19. Accessed March 17, 2021.
- American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. Looking Ahead to 2021: How COVID-19 Continues to Impact the Dental Care Sector. Available at: https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPI_COVID_Webinar_Feb_2021_1.pdf?la=en. Accessed March 17, 2021.
From Decisions in Dentistry. April 2021;7(4):46.