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Forced Smile

A tough economy, employment concerns and patient fear make for a challenging dental enrollment season

Benefits specialists are not quite sure what to think about the current dental insurance enrollment season. Many employers have been reporting solid profits this year and adding employees. Then Hurricane Irene hit, European financial crisis fears resurfaced, and the mood darkened.

“It’s a struggle out there,” according to Steven Stender, a senior actuarial consultant at OptumInsight Consulting, Eden Prairie Minn., a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. (NYSE:UNH).

But the overall weakness of the economy and the stubbornly high unemployment rate have both shaped dental insurance results, Schwartz said.

“Growth has been affected by employers who have reduced jobs, which affects the number of covered lives participating in employer-sponsored dental plans,” Schwartz said.

The incidence of cavities in the baby teeth of children ages 2 to 4 has increased to 24%, from 18%; the goal set a decade ago was to get the percentage down to 11% by 2010.

Incidence in children ages 6 to 8 has increased only one percentage point to 53%, but officials had hoped to cut the percentage to 42%.

“Employers who have not reviewed their dental plan features for years may have a plan that does not reflect current concepts of dental care,” Schwartz said.

Current clinical research can lead to improvements in employee satisfaction along with reductions in cost, he said.

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Nichole Morford

Nichole Morford
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