Despite the Society for Human Resource Management reporting that 96 percent of all companies offer some kind of group dental benefits to employees, as many as one-third of dental plan members don’t actually use their benefits, resulting in waste for employers and employees. Why aren’t more people taking advantage of their dental benefits? How can employers encourage employees to make use of this valuable coverage?
The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute released its findings in early 2016 that indicated 36.5 percent of all adults who have dental insurance from an employer did not have a single dental claim in the 2013 plan year. Nearly 45 percent of employees in the youngest age bracket (19–34), didn’t file any claims, followed by 36.6 percent aged 35 to 49 and 30.4 percent of those aged 50 to 64.
Dental Benefits Not Used by Enough Younger Employees
It seems that millennials are the least likely to use their dental insurance—but why? There are a few reasons why this may be happening.
Younger Employees Believe They Don’t Need Routine Dental Care
Although Harvard Medical School advises that people over the age of 65 tend to have higher rates of dental problems and gum disease, young people should also take advantage of regular dental care to prevent future issues. However, it can be that young people don’t think about it as much, or they don’t feel the need to worry about their health.
The Cost of Dental Procedures Has Skyrocketed
Dental Economics reports that the cost of dental services has dramatically risen over the last few decades, from $2 billion in 1960 to $126.3 billion in 2013, and that much of this is for out-of-pocket expenses. A dollar’s worth of dental services in 1984 now costs nearly $3. Younger people do not have the savings nor the incomes to pay for overly expensive dental care.
Dental Benefits Are Not Promoted as Often as Other Types of Benefits
The Atlantic reported that dental coverage is often the most underrated of benefits, but yet it can make a positive impact on overall health and well-being. Many employers focus much of their efforts on educating employees on health insurance, with very little time spent on dental insurance choices.
Putting Attention Back on Dental Benefits and Oral Health
While efforts to educate younger employees can be helpful, it’s important for employers to spend enough time communicating the value of using benefits with all employees. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Include dental plan information as part of an overall wellness package. Some employers treat dental insurance as simply an add-on to health insurance. Instead, communicate and highlight dental insurance as part of a whole benefits package for full employee health.
- Provide access to affordable dental care. Choose a group dental plan that honors customary dental prices and makes services more affordable for budget-sensitive employees. Avoid plans that promote dental credit plans or don’t advertise their dental rates.
- Make dental care a part of the corporate wellness program. There are many case studies that prove good oral care prevents other health problems, such as heart disease. Make dental care a critical component of your corporate wellness program with educational efforts to encourage employees to participate in regular dental care.
- Invite dental plan administrators to your company. At least once a year, invite the administrator for your dental plan to come to your business to highlight plan benefits and answer questions. Have copies of your group dental rates and enrollment packages handy, as well as a directory of providers.
By using the above methods, your company can encourage more employees to use their benefits on a regular basis. Throughout the year, check to see if claims are being generated and make it a point to visit employees who may not be using their benefits fully. Use this as an opportunity to educate employees about dollars they are leaving on the table, how to use their health savings accounts to pay for out-of-pocket expenses and where to get help with finding affordable dental care.