Dental insurance becoming central to overall health plan strategy

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One benefit that continues to be a high priority among all generations is dental insurance, and as employers seek to tackle the needs of their diverse employees, prioritizing this offering is essential to meet the needs of the of the total workforce.

MetLife recently released its 2017 Employee Benefit Trends Study, and in it the carrier determined while traditional benefits are generally more important to older employees, dental insurance is critical across all generations.

Cory Friedman, vice president of benefits consulting at GCG Financial, Inc., would place dental at the top of most desired benefits alongside major medical and vision.

“Where a lot of small businesses might not have offered any ancillary-type benefits, many have done away with their group medical plans after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act,” Friedman says. “So what a lot of [employers] did was shift into offering employee benefit programs made up of benefits that employees can’t easily get on their own, and dental has been a big part of that.”

Also see: Are healthcare cost-shifting efforts at a tipping point?

At least 70% of all generations agreed that dental is essential to determining whether they will take a position with a company, a slight increase from the previous year, according to MetLife’s study.

Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants, says when it comes to someone’s health and well-being, dental is a sure way to make sure that not just an employee’s oral health is sound but their overall health is not in danger.

“If you have gum disease, that can definitely be a precursor for a number of cardiac issues,” Schmidt says. “I know in our wellness program we try to keep up with employee preventative stuff and many companies are putting this into their wellness rewards system so there is more of that tracking and proving that people are going in and taking care of their dental hygiene.”

As employees increasingly turn to the workplace for holistic wellness support, dental has been found to be a key component of a complete wellness strategy, according to MetLife’s 2017 Employee Benefit Trends Study.

The National Association of Dental Plans says employees who receive dental care are less likely to have larger health complications and also found that people without dental benefits reported higher incidences of other illnesses.

Employees were 67% more likely to have heart disease and 29% more likely to have diabetes. Because of the potential for these serious illnesses, employers are more likely to see a loss in productivity.

At least 33% of employees say their productivity at work suffered because they had to delay medical or dental care due to the cost.

Friedman says employers of all sizes need to start looking at dental more strategically, similar to how they would look at offering a major medical plan to their employees.

“Oftentimes you find an employer would just offer maybe one dental plan, such as a one-size-fits-all plan,” Friedman says. “What we’re seeing is employers are beginning to offer multiple dental options, giving their employees a choice among several different plans based on their needs similar to medical insurance.”

Friedman adds that employers are beginning to prioritize dental, rather than just an after-thought as it may have been before. With multiple plan options that employees value, this can avoid losses in health and productivity and even reduce anxiety within the workplace, according to MetLife’s trend study.

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