Dental practices add COVID-19 surcharges for PPE

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Dental practices add surcharges for PPE

To meet the rising expenses associated with SARS-CoV-2, some businesses have adopted a surcharge fee that is intended to cover personal protective equipment costs. (Image: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock)
Iveta Ramonaite, DTI

Iveta Ramonaite, DTI

Wed. 3. June 2020


CHICAGO, U.S.: Dental practices are suffering from the impact of SARS-CoV-2 and the substantial economic loss brought about by contact restrictions and reduced working hours. However, various businesses have found a way to help cover some of the economic damage inflicted by the pandemic. Faced with the crisis, businesses such as salons, restaurants and dental offices have started levying surcharge fees on customers.

Updated requirements for infection control and prevention have led to increasing personal protective equipment (PPE) costs, and many dental practices are currently struggling to meet the growing demand for PPE in the health care setting. In order to help replenish stock supplies and ensure the safety of patients and staff, some practices have started to charge extra fees ranging from $10 to $40 (€9 to €36) per patient that are intended to help cover the additional expenses.

However, some customers are unhappy with the newly added fees, claiming that the copayment for PPE is unfair, as it holds patients accountable for their own safety. To make matters worse, some dental patients are struggling financially, as they have been laid off as a result of the pandemic. Consequently, they are no longer covered by health insurance and are finding it difficult to bear out-of-pocket dental costs.

Commenting on the issue, the American Dental Association (ADA) told Dental Tribune International: “The cost of PPE has increased considerably, resulting in some dentists charging an extra fee to cover the increased expense. The choice to charge an additional fee for PPE is an individual dental practice business decision.”

“The ADA strongly encourages dental offices to disclose any additional fees upfront to patients and to document these charges in the patient record,” the association noted.

Additionally, the ADA recommended that dental benefit carriers either adjust the maximum allowable fees for all procedures to cover the increased costs of PPE or allow an additional standard fee per date of service per patient. The association also stated that, whereas many insurance carriers do not yet have policies or programs in place for PPE, some of them do offer support programs for additional PPE expenses.

More information about carriers that offer PPE financial support programs can be found here.

8 thoughts on “Dental practices add surcharges for PPE

  1. Yolanda says:

    Just recieved my daughter’s dental EOB with a denied claim of 10.00 for “Unspecified Preventive Procedure”, so I called the dental office. She sure was surprised that I wanted to know what it was, as I would have to pay it; no big deal. She said the charge is for “The PPE that they wear, masks gloves; etc.” OK, but insurance isn’t going to cover anything billed as unspecified, so you sneak the charge in there as a procedure.

  2. monkey butt says:

    I do work in a dental office and the cost of the N95 masks are most certainly close to $30 per. They are not worn for weeks at a time and they do have to be covered with a Level 3 and a shield. Gowns have to be changed between each patient and drs must change more often as they leave to do exams in between putting them going through 20 + gowns per day. In dentistry there is always oral splatter and aerosols. There is not in other fields except respiratory. COVID can be contained in these aerosols. New equipment should be used in operatories that sits beside the patients face that catches all aerosols along with the regular suction that has always been used. There are lights that can kill any virus’ in the air. Rooms should sit for at least 10 minutes after spraying down, undisturbed to kill any contaminants. This cuts down on the number of patients seen in a day and income. Disinfectants, wipes, cleaners were not sold to anyone but hospitals for a long period of time. When we finally could get them, it was quite expensive as the cost had risen. Masks (level 3 and up) have been hard to get and limited since day 1.People are NASTY. They feel they have to stick their fingers in their mouth to show everyone in the office what is going on with the pus filled abscess in their mouth and proceed to touch everything in their path. Virus or not. Money is not being made off of any of these additional fees. Most offices were closed for at least 2 months. It is all for added protection. Would you rather have no where to go when your face blows up from an abscessed tooth or you just need your crown recemented on your front tooth? Or even just your regular cleaning?

  3. Patrick Seaney says:

    The ADA has issued guidelines for COVID19 PPE surcharges, which include a summary of what insurance companies are allowing. I don’t begrudge my dentist for trying to cover this cost ($10 in my case), but I think it is shameful that dental insurers are not stepping up to pay it. Since many dental offices were closed at the height of the pandemic, insurers have had a dramatic reduction in claim payments, and should be able to cover PPE costs as a result. The whole point of purchasing dental insurance is for the individual to avoid the risk of unpredictable dental expenditures. It is not ethical for insurers to shift the risk directly back to the consumer.

  4. Alexis says:

    I work in the midwestern emergency department and they are not paying $30 per N95. I also know that majority of the staff have been using the same N95 ( which is typically covered with a disposable surgical mask for an added layer of protection) for weeks on end unless it’s visibly contaminated. Hospitals bear the same responsibility to protect their staff and their patients.
    I also understand the financial ramifications of the business aspect of the dental office however I don’t pay more for my dinner because the restaurant is operating at half capacity, or has to supply their staff members with shields/masks or outfit the facility with sneeze guards. I can apply this theory to any number of businesses… I don’t understand why dental providers should be afforded the luxury of passing on the extra overhead.

  5. Anonymous says:

    To Answer all your question the N95 mask that are being used are $30 each mask. Therefore, if you see 8 Patients a day, that’s 240.00 on top of a daily overhead. Not to mention on top of the N95 mask you must wear a level 3 mask which the coast right now for a level 3 mask is 9.99 each mask.

  6. Jacob Fartruse says:

    These fees are fortunately prohibited under my dental insurance agreement. Dentists are trying to foist the cost of infection control, which they should have always practiced, on cash strapped patients just to protect their profits.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I was checking out after my routine cleaning and was surprised that I had to pay $15 when I normally don’t pay anything. I didn’t appreciate the surprise fee. The dental office I visit is part of a large New England network. They should be able to cover additional costs themselves instead of forcing it upon their patients. Plus, $15 per person? They’re making a profit off of this.

  8. Jean Trask says:

    If a dentist wears face masks in every day practice (before covid 19) why are they charging fees for masks now.?

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