ADA endorses Bento to provide modern alternative to administration of dental benefit plans
Boston-based company’s model seeks to change dental benefits landscape for dentists, their patients
Author – David Burger
On June 15, the ADA announced its endorsement of Bento, a dental benefits technology company. Known for its advanced cloud-based solutions, Bento is also endorsed by the Florida Dental Association and the Massachusetts Dental Society.
“We believe Bento’s solution is optimal for creating transparency in dental care for as many patients as possible because it streamlines payments and allows patients and dentists to come up with appropriate dental care plans without interference,” said ADA President Chad P. Gehani.
“It’s the best we’ve seen thus far in addressing the needs of everyone from individuals to group members while optimizing the experience for patients and dentists,” Dr. Gehani added. “With COVID-19, a digital transformation is underway throughout the world and in every aspect of our lives. The Bento model not only supports employers and group discount plans but also offers dentists the flexibility to offer in-office plans. We want to make sure ADA members have the best path forward following these unprecedented times and we believe that these twin solutions offered by Bento could provide the market disruption that we have been waiting for.”
Bento was founded in 2017 by Boston-based serial entrepreneurs Ram Sudireddy and Saty Mahajan, who, according to Bento’s website, “set out on a mission together to give every American lifetime access to affordable oral health care through a modern, transparent experience.”
Bento’s software provides a model that seeks to support the dentist-patient relationship without undue interference. Although Bento’s platform allows employers to establish self-funded PPO plans with negotiated fee schedules, their award-winning technology is a marked improvement over traditional dental benefit administration, according to some ADA members who have already started to use Bento’s products.
“It has been awesome,” said Dr. Amit Lala, Ph.D., a lecturer at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and a provider in Bento’s network. “The enrollment is so fast and it’s easy to understand the benefits. It’s a great direct patient-to-doctor communication without a middle man. The insurance no longer decides what procedures are needed — it is decided by the doctor and the patient mutually — so therefore it serves the best interests of both the provider and the consumer.”
Bento allows employers to administer benefits without getting in the middle of the dentist-patient relationship regardless of the dentist’s participation with Bento’s network. Eligibility and benefits verification is done in real-time, and treatment plan decisions remain between the dentists and their patients. After the appointment is complete, dentists participating with Bento get paid with a single click and eliminate the cost of collections and chasing unpaid bills. And their patients can see in advance how much the prescribed services will cost them and offers what the company refers to as “pay-as-you-go-dental.”
“Bento appears to respect my clinical judgment and, most importantly, my relationship with my patient,” said Dr. Jessica Stilley, a member of the Council on Dental Benefit Programs. “Bento simply administers the benefit without making clinical determinations about what is needed. I’m really excited about what the Bento network could bring to our patients and I look forward to working with them more in the future.”
“Bento has great potential,” said Dr. Sara Stuefen, a member of the ADA Council on Dental Benefit Programs who has demoed the system. “Their app and online portal provide real-time information to the patient and the dental office. A top complaint of dental offices is the amount of time front office staff spends determining a patient’s benefits. We also have all experienced waiting many long weeks for a preauthorization to come back. This eliminates these issues. Bento is trying to set themselves apart in the dental benefits market and it shows.”
Dr. Lala said that creating and setting up his own in-office plan using Bento was easy.
“Bento allows you to install an in-office plan for people who do not have insurance and it helps tremendously to keep the patient flow in the office,” said Dr. Lala. “The best part is that Bento is providing the IT platform for free for these types of plans. It’s a win-win situation. In a nutshell, Bento saves money and time for the providers and consumers and brings the doctor-patient relationship to the forefront, which is conducive to successful and efficient dental treatment management.”
There are no setup fees for any dentist to offer in-office plans using Bento’s technology. Once a patient purchases an in-office plan, the patient will pay for the plan in monthly installments. Bento deducts a flat fee per-patient per-month for each plan purchased in-office. ADA members who use Bento to offer in-office plans will save 20% off all per-patient per-month fees by entering their ADA member information in the Bento Dentist Portal when setting up their in-office plans.
“The biggest benefit is ease of use,” said Dr. Stuefen. “Their portal and app are user-friendly. They make it clear to patients what they owe and clear to dental offices on what to collect. This means accurately collecting what is owed by the patient the same day of the procedure. There’s no more guessing and hoping you determined the benefits correctly.”
“It must be adopted all over the country,” recommended Dr. Lala, who also uses a Bento self-funded plan as an employer for his staff. “We providers lose so much money on the middle man — current dental insurance companies — and lose so much time waiting on insurance plans for payment, eligibility and coverage verification.”
Becoming a Bento dentist is free. Visit bento.net/dentist-signup, provide information about the practice and dentists, choose a fee schedule tier or tiers and set up a bank account for direct deposit. Setup takes minutes, and the practice will be up and running with Bento within two business days.
For detailed answers to questions, how-to guides and extensive lists of FAQs, visit bento.net/bentopedia. Contact Bento at 1-800-734-8484 to speak with a Bento team member or email them at [email protected].
David Burger is a Senior Editor at the American Dental Association.