In today’s uncertain economic and legislative climate, employers – especially small businesses – continue to seek ways to curb skyrocketing health care costs while providing the key non-medical benefits, like dental, disability and life, that employees value. Offering these benefits helps employers recruit and retain top talent, while potentially lowering long-term health care costs.
According to industry research, routine dental exams can help detect symptoms of more than 125 diseases, including diabetes, osteoporosis, heart and kidney disease. They can help patients and providers treat health problems before they worsen and are harder to control.
"While in many cases, the nature of the link to dental health still isn’t clear, what is certain is that the condition of the mouth is closely tied to overall physical wellbeing," said Dr. Polly Galbraith, chief medical officer for Assurant Employee Benefits. "Healthy mouths lead to better overall wellness, fewer sick days and lower medical costs."
Adding or improving dental plans in their benefits packages often makes financial sense as it can make for a healthier work force. By turning to trusted agents or brokers, employers can minimize the impact on their human resources team and rely on an expert to help design plans with options that provide their employees flexibility while getting the most out of their dollars. Key to this success is finding the right carrier who is easy to do business with, able to anticipate needs and concerns and provide hassle-free administration. Additionally, look for carriers that allow you to bundle other coverages like vision.
Consider the value of voluntary
To help employers provide a cost-competitive benefits program and help offset high-deductible costs for employees, it’s more important than ever to consider the value of voluntary benefits when designing plans. Voluntary dental products allow employers to offer benefits while considering only administrative costs. For ultimate flexibility, look for voluntary providers with a diverse product portfolio that includes dual- and triple-choice plans, including preferred provider organization and dental health maintenance organization plans.
When it comes to competitive PPO dental plans, the network is one of the most important aspects to consider because it can bring added value. Nationwide dental fees from network dentists are approximately 30 percent lower on average than non-network dental fees. A network’s value is based on size, quality and potential savings. Large networks support a wide range of dental plan designs, especially more cost-conscious plans. And while size is important, it is critical that participating dentists are near where employees live. Otherwise, the network will provide no value to them. Some networks allow individuals to nominate a dentist for participation or talk to their dentist about joining. Some providers even have recruiters who identify key dentists to enlist in areas important to their clients.
Another option, DHMO, also is known as prepaid dental. It can be ideal for those employers who don’t have a dental plan in place, are facing large increases in medical coverage rates, do not wish to invest in a traditional dental plan, have a plan with low participation due to high costs or with several classes of employees where the employer might offer a Hi-Low plan. DHMO plans work much like a traditional HMO health plan, as dental providers agree to charge a negotiated amount, or copayment, for certain procedures. A DHMO is a valuable and affordable alternative that allows employers to offer a convenient, appealing benefit to employees.
No unwanted surprises
Employees can use a DHMO immediately and don’t have the waiting periods associated with many traditional dental plans. They also don’t have to postpone treatment because they’ve hit a plan maximum, which can happen under traditional dental plans when employees use dental plans for expenses other than routine services. Lastly, because employees receive a schedule of benefits that clearly lists service fees, there are no unwanted surprises.
Be aware of any enhancements and value-added services that can be added to dental plans. Some enhancements allow family members to share dental coverage under a pooled maximum enabling additional dental care for the family members who need it most. Another enhancement allows preventative services that don’t count toward maximums and make more benefit dollars available for other care. Others include coverage for services like additional yearly cleanings to help prevent gum disease, posterior tooth-colored composites, periochips and more.
Providers also should provide a variety of quality enrollment tools, like posters, emails, videos, personalized enrollment cards, payroll stuffers and announcement letters that educate employees to yield the highest participation possible. For multicultural workforces, they also should provide enrollment materials in other languages as well as bilingual enrollment coordinators.
With all of the options available today, designing an attractive dental plan can be relatively easy and an exercise in resourcefulness. All it takes is a good understanding of the employer’s and employees’ needs and wants, and the plans and enhancements that each of your carrier partners brings to the table.