Coordination of Dental Benefits

One of the most difficult things to maneuver is coordinating benefits between two insurance companies.  The most common questions involve what you can bill the insurance companies and the patients.  Here are a few fundamental points to keep in mind.


Always bill your full fee and let the insurance companies make the proper adjustments, per your PPO contract.  This ensures that your patients receive the maximum benefit.  This also makes any patient refund calculation much easier.  If you are a PPO provider for the primary and/or secondary plan, always calculate the patient balance using the lowest fee schedule.  This means you may have to do some adjustments to determine if the patient actually owes a balance or if you actually owe a refund.

Now let’s step through two examples.

Primary plan is a PPO, the secondary plan is a non-PPO, and insurance companies coordinate benefits in full.

Crown PPO fee: $800

Crown full fee: $1,000.  The full fee of $1,000 is used to bill both insurance companies.

Amount billed for crown                        $1,000

Primary PPO insurance pays                $   400

Secondary insurance pays                     $   500

.                                                                   $   100

Does the patient owe $100?  The answer is “no.”  The patient’s balance is calculated using the lowest fee schedule, meaning you use the PPO fee of $800 and subtract that from total reimbursements from primary and secondary coverage which equal $900 ($400 + $500).  Does the practice owe a $100 refund?  No refund is due since total payments of $900 did not exceed the practice’s full fee for the crown of $1,000.  The practice would write off the $100 balance as a PPO discount.

The facts are the same as above except the insurance companies do not coordinate in full.

Crown PPO fee: $800

Crown full fee: $1,000.  The full fee of $1,000 is used to bill both insurance companies.

Amount billed for crown                      $1,000

Primary insurance pays                       $   400

Secondary insurance pays                   $   100

.                                                                 $   500

What does the patient owe?  Remember to use the lowest fee schedule for the calculation.  In this case the patient owes $300 ($800 PPO crown fee – $500 collected from both insurance plans).  The remaining $200 balance is written off as a PPO discount.

dental fees

Coordination of benefits can get confusing.  Keeping these fundamental concepts in mind will help your team accurately calculate patient balances and refunds.

Comments (3)

  1. shay says:

    My question Is about the ppo contracted fee of 800 and between the two insurance companies a total off 900 is paid. The article states that the extra 100 is written off as discount ppo fee..I am confused about that it a fact that the office keeps that 100 because it’s not above the 1000.00 office fee so it’s applied to the cost of the crown so the patient does not have a credit..

  2. Susan says:

    This is not correct information. A dentist is only required to take the ppo write-off for the primary insurance company unless the plan does not cover a certain code. In this case the other plan would cover that fee along with the write off (as long as the doctor is in-network and that fee is covered by the policy).

  3. Amy says:

    How does it work if we are not contracted with the primary plan but we are contracted with the secondary plan? Do we make adjust meants down to our negotiated fee for the secondary? Or do we use UCR since we are not contracted with the primary plan? Or do we use the primary plans “allowable” fee?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.