Dentist costs could rise 20 percent amid billing system reforms

Dentist bills could become up to 20 percent more expensive, according to a warning from the association of private health insurers (PKV) – as billing changes hit privately as well as statutorily insured patients in Germany.

Dentist costs could rise 20 percent amid billing system reforms
Say aaargh. Photo: DPA

The PKV said the reform of the dentist billing system on which basis dentists write their bills for private patients – as well as statutory patients who receive anything other than the most basic care, will cause a dramatic increase in costs.

The additional-to-basic dental care which people with statutory insurance receive is paid for either by their additional dental insurance, or from their own pockets. Reporting the story on Tuesday, Die Welt newspaper said that this meant nearly everyone in the country would be affected.

The Health Ministry has already said that the reformed dentist billing system which is set to take effect next year, would increase dentists’ incomes by around six percent. But the PKV says it is likely to go up by much more than that.

“The prospect of an increase of at least 14 percent would seem realistic,” it said in a statement. It warned that the total increase in costs could be as much as 20 percent.

The difference in the two estimates is due to the free room that dentists have when writing their bills, Die Welt said. They can multiply the basic rate for each specific treatment, by a various factors. This is generally 2.3, the paper said. But many dentists charge more than this, with figures from the PKV suggesting the number of dentists who charged more than 2.3 times the bottom rate increasing by nearly 65 percent between 2000 and 2009.

This has led to the costs for privately insured patients increasing by 144 percent within that decade. The government has expressed the hope that the new system would encourage dentists to return to more moderate billing practices.

“It is to be expected that the increase in billing volume could realistically be three times as high as suggested,” said the PKV statement. This would be around 18 percent.

The news will likely cause a headache for many health insurers, which are in any case having financial difficulties. Figures from the Federal Insurance Office suggest one in four insurers does not have a satisfactory financial cushion – less than the 0.25 percent of their monthly outgoings as prescribed by the law.

The Local/DAPD/hc

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