If you offer a medical benefit package to your employees, you might be wondering whether it’s worth the expense to add dental coverage. The evidence says yes!
Dental coverage is a popular benefit. In a study conducted by Delta Dental, 70 percent of employees surveyed said that dental benefits were somewhat or very important. Other non-medical insurance benefits, including vision, disability and life insurance, ranked lower.
Most important, employees who have dental benefits can be healthier. According to WebMD, good dental health may lower your employees’ risk of heart disease, because gum disease has been linked to cardiovascular problems. Poor oral health also can lead to the development of infection in joints, and gingivitis has been linked to memory problems.
What Dental Benefits Cover
One of the first choices you’ll need to make is whether your plan will be with a preferred provider organization (PPO) or a health management organization (HMO). Both offer members discounts, but PPOs are more popular with dentists because they are reimbursed at a higher rate. Plan members who go outside the PPO network, though, may have to pay up to 100 percent more for services.
According to an article published in Angie’s List, a standard employer-provided PPO usually covers between 80-90 percent of the cost of checkups, cleanings and other preventive treatments. More involved treatments, such as root canals or fillings, are covered at 70 to 80 percent. Major dental work, like crowns or dentures, are usually covered at 50 percent.
Why Dental Care is Affordable
The use of fluoride sealants and other preventive dental care by the dental profession has led to improved oral health in the United States. Data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that dental costs have risen less than medical costs in the past few decades. This is because many medical treatments are for unpredictable or catastrophic conditions, while dental care costs often are predictable and not serious. The more employees use their dental coverage for preventive measures, the more they save down the road by avoiding costly treatments — which keeps rates stable.
For instance, dentists can check for oral cancers and other health issues during a preventive checkup. WebMD reports that an estimated 75 percent of oral cancers usually are detected during a comprehensive oral exam.
Making Dental Plans Even More Affordable
If you currently offer dental coverage to your employees and want to reduce costs, reevaluate your plan design. Comparing your current offering with other plans can ensure you have the most cost-effective plan. To prevent major dental problems for your employees, consider covering 100 percent of preventive care with no deductible. This will encourage employees to get regular dental checkups and take care of issues before they become problems.
A plan that offers a large provider network also can help keep costs down for employees by giving them a wide choice of dentists. Choosing to have work done by an in-network dentist can save employees up to 30 percent, according to Delta Dental.
Employers also can save by requiring employees to share in the cost of the dental plan. You can do this by having employees pay a portion of the premium. Most plans also have participants share in costs at time of service by having copayments. In a typical plan, the employee will pay 20 percent of covered preventive care costs and the plan 80 percent, after deductibles are satisfied. Some plans pay a lower percent of costs, such as 50 percent, for restorative procedures, such as fillings, crowns and bridges. It’s important to choose a good employee cost-share ratio so employees aren’t deterred from seeking care because of high out-of-pocket costs.
Employers that are unable to contribute to a dental plan can make the dental plan voluntary. Voluntary plans cost employers nothing. Although employees pay for premiums themselves, they still receive valuable benefits for less than what they could purchase on their own.