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How to help employees make most of their dental benefits

EDITOR’S NOTE: This guest column is by Karyn Glogowski, shown here, Delta Dental of Illinois’ vice president of sales for Southwestern Illinois.

Health-care costs are expected to grow 6.8 percent in 2015, making it increasingly important for a company to make the most efficient use of every dollar it invests in its employee benefits programs.

glowgowski karenThe good news is that, as one of the most-preferred benefits among employees, dental coverage remains a good value at a relatively low cost.

With employers and more employees shouldering the rise in health-care costs, it is more important than ever to make sure benefits are being used effectively. One way is to educate employees about how to get the most value from their dental benefits.

Prevention begins with dentist visits

One word sums up why dental benefits work, and that word is “prevention.” Most dental disease is preventable, and it is less expensive for employees to seek preventive oral health care up front than to receive costly treatments down the road.

That’s why it’s important for employers to encourage their employees to visit the dentist – it is fundamental to achieving good oral and overall health. The mouth is a key part of the body, and the preventive oral health habits that dental benefits promote can contribute to better systemic health. More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases – including diabetes, cancer and heart disease – have oral characteristics that can be detected by the dentist during an oral exam.

Utilizing the network

When an in-network dentist is used, there are benefits of economy and convenience for the employee and employer. Selecting an in-network dentist can save employees both time – there’s no longer a need to comparison shop – and money. Visiting a PPO network dentist can save an employee around 30 percent on average as compared to standard industry charges – and contributes to the overall effective discount of the employer’s dental program.

Employees who visit a network dentist may be protected from being balance billed – meaning they cannot be billed for the difference between the carrier’s negotiated rate for a particular service and the provider’s customary fee. Also, when employees choose a network dentist, they are helping to ensure lower claims costs, which offer immediate financial benefits for a self-insured group and can lead to more stable overall costs in the long run for fully insured groups.

Understanding their benefits

It’s important for employers to make sure their employees completely understand their dental benefits package. Employees might not realize they can carry over unused annual benefit maximums from one plan year to the next in some cases, for example – or they might not be aware that preventive checkups are covered at 100 percent each year.

Consider these tips:

 Give frequent reminders. Let employees know why visiting the dentist and taking care of their oral health is so important. They may not be aware their oral health can affect their overall health.

 Make sure to communicate new benefits – or changes in benefits – to employees. The open enrollment period creates the perfect time to communicate information, even if there isn’t a benefits change.

 Provide a cost savings worksheet that shows the differences between in- and out-of-network dental costs, which can help reinforce the importance of seeking care from an in-network dentist.

 Don’t leave benefits on the table. Help employees take advantage of unutilized benefits – such as fluoride treatments, sealants, additional cleanings or periodontal services – that they or their family members may be eligible to receive.

 Use dental benefits carriers’ resources. Many carriers offer a suite of communications tools to help employers educate employees.

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