Word of Mouth

Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Orthodontics are becoming a more important benefit for employees

Brace yourself — National Orthodontic Health Month is here! When it comes to choosing dental benefits to attract and maintain top-tier talent, orthodontic coverage is essential. Here’s a deeper dive into orthodontic coverage and the value it brings to you and your employees.

More people are interested in braces

Braces do more than give people a pretty smile. By ensuring proper alignment of the teeth, orthodontics can make it easier to bite, chew and speak. Misaligned teeth are also harder to clean and can wear in unusual ways. Minor untreated issues can lead to more serious problems further down the road, and that can mean increased utilization costs for your business. Far from being a luxury, orthodontic treatment can be essential to proper dental health.

When you imagine your average person with braces, you probably picture a teenager whose parents want them to have a beautiful smile. While most of the over 4 million people in the United States who are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment are teens, over 25% of current patients are adults, and these numbers are expected to grow. The number of adults seeing orthodontists is at an all-time high, according to the American Association of Orthodontists, and that means the pool of prospective ortho patients is wider than it’s ever been. Even childless adults may be interested in these benefits, such as the young professionals in the job market.

Employees expect to see dental insurance among their benefits, and orthodontic coverage can help your plans stand out from competitors. Fortunately, Delta Dental plans offer such coverage at affordable price points.

What kind of coverage does Delta Dental offer?

Without insurance, prospective orthodontic patients can expect to pay between $3,000 and 6,000 dollars depending on their age. Delta Dental plans can help cut these costs in half. That’s why Delta Dental’s been recognized as the best overall dental insurance for braces in 2021.

Orthodontic coverage is available under both Delta Dental PPO™ and DeltaCare® USA:

  • Delta Dental PPO plans vary by group and may include orthodontic coverage. You can choose to limit orthodontic coverage to children under 19 or cover orthodontics for both children and adults. Coverage is usually subject to a lifetime orthodontic maximum per person.
  • All DeltaCare USA plans cover orthodontics at set copayments, with no maximums or deductibles.

While specifics vary depending on your plan, coverage usually includes:

  • Pre-orthodontic treatment visits
  • Exam and start-up records
  • X‑rays
  • Orthodontist-recommended tooth extractions
  • Comprehensive orthodontic treatment
  • Post-treatment records
  • Orthodontic takeover for treatment that’s already in progress

Plans generally don’t cover the following:

  • Orthodontic treatment for children delivered in two phases
  • Appliances to correct harmful habits (like thumb-sucking)
  • Jaw surgery to facilitate orthodontic treatment
  • Treatment to prepare for other non-covered surgical procedures

Alternative appliances like Invisalign, mail-order appliances and teleorthodontistry generally aren’t, but Delta Dental usually still covers some of the orthodontic treatment costs, such as x‑rays and exams.

Want to help your employees understand their out-of-pocket costs? For PPO plans, encourage your employees to ask their orthodontist for a pre-treatment estimate. DeltaCare USA members can check their plan booklet for their copayments.

From children to adults, the interest in orthodontics is only growing, especially among adults. You won’t want to miss out on delivering benefits that employees love — and expect. Consider adding orthodontic coverage to your plan — or expanding the orthodontic coverage you currently offer.

With Delta Dental’s plans, your employees can find the orthodontic coverage they’re looking for at a price point they can afford, and that’s a great reason to smile.

Tips for supporting your blind and low-vision employees

October is Blindness Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to reevaluate some of your accessibility practices. Approximately 12 million Americans over 40 are visually impaired, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 1 million are blind and 2 million have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of low-vision and blindness among adults over 50.

Not all visual impairments are obvious, so it’s important to offer options to your employees.

What you can do to help employees

Accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean committing to big digital and office modifications. Being mindful of blind and low-vision employees and their needs can create a better office experience for everyone involved. A little bit of awareness goes a long way in creating a safer and more dignified workspace.

  • Communicate important information electronically. While sending paper mail may be standard for some communications, visually impaired or blind employees may have trouble finding the information enclosed. Sending a screen reader–friendly email, text message or audio file may be a better option. Talk to your employees about their preferences. Large type may be suitable for some people with low vision.
  • Equip your office. Assistive technology in the office creates a more inclusive workspace and gives low-vision and blind employees the tools they need to succeed. Scanners, magnifiers, screen readers and Braille displays are all helpful resources.
  • Make your company’s website and intranet accessible. Even the simplest webpages can have coding that’s difficult for screen readers. Make your webpages easier to use for blind and low-vision employees by using alt-text for images, being thoughtful with colors and choosing descriptive phrases for linking.
  • Don’t assume you can pet an employee’s guide dog. Tempting as it may be, guide dogs have an important job to do. If an employee relies on a guide dog, understand that by petting it or offering treats, you may be distracting it from helping its owner. Always ask the owner before approaching their guide dog.

Resources from Delta Dental

Studies have linked periodontal disease to retinal degeneration and certain oral bacteria to glaucoma. For those with good to moderate vision, seeing their dentist regularly can help protect their mouth and their sight. When your employees need a little extra help with their benefits, Delta Dental is here to help.

  • Document translation. Written materials, such as plan information, can be translated to Braille or audio formats for blind and low-vision patients.
  • Customer service. For any questions about their coverage, members can simply call 866–530-9675 and speak to a customer service representative. Contact customer service to request material translations.

All people deserve equal care and dignity when receiving it. For more resources, visit the Perkins School for the Blind’s workplace accommodation tips.

Open enrollment: Resources and what’s new

Open enrollment can be difficult for employees to navigate, but they won’t have to go it alone. Flyers, videos and more are available to help your employees understand their coverage options, choose the right plans for their needs and make the most of their benefits.

What’s new

New initiatives and resources available for this year’s open enrollment season.

Virtual booths

If your company has virtual open enrollment software, you can get all the benefits of having an in-person event virtually. With flyers, presentations and more, a virtual booth session is the perfect educational source for employees who can’t make it into the office. (Virtual booth sessions with a live Delta Dental representative require a minimum of 100 attendees.)

Quality ratings for dentists

Choosing the right dentist can be tricky. The new DentaQual rating system provides a simple and objective rating system based on a dentist’s past performance. That makes it easy for employees to find dentists that deliver effective, appropriate and fairly priced service.

Virtual dentistry

Two options are available for employees who are looking for teledentistry tools: Delta Dental – Virtual Consult (PDF) is a video-based app for members to consult with a Delta Dental dentist live, and Toothpic (PDF) is a photo-based app that lets members submit photos of problem areas for professional analysis.

Get check-ups remotely

Callback assist

When your employees contact Delta Dental’s Customer Service, they can now get a convenient callback instead of having to wait on the line.

A redesigned website

In 2020, we rolled out a whole new design for our website and refreshed its content. This new design makes finding answers easier, whether choosing a plan, understanding benefits or just looking for tips on maintaining a healthy smile.

  • Delta Dental members resources. Help members plan visits, know what to expect at the dentist’s office and what to do after they complete their visits. There’s also useful information about value-added benefits, like virtual dentistry and preferred pricing on LASIK and hearing aids, and a wellness library with articles, videos, recipes and more.
  • Delta Dental virtual dentistry. Understand teledentistry and the differences between Virtual Consult and Toothpic.
  • Smile On. If you have employees who may be retiring or ineligible for full-time benefits, Smile On is a great way for them to get affordable coverage that meets their needs.

New video content

These videos provide short and direct explanations of Delta Dental’s plans and features. To share these videos on your website or intranet, just click the videos to navigate to YouTube. Below the video you wish to share, click Share > Embed. Then copy and paste the code into your webpage or intranet site. 

These videos also feature Spanish closed captioning. To turn on Spanish captions, click the settings symbol (the cogwheel icon), then click Subtitles/CC and choose Spanish from the list.

Delta Dental PPO™ network 

All about the Delta Dental PPO network

Delta Dental PPO and Delta Dental Premier® networks

Get to know Delta Dental’s PPO and Premier networks

DeltaCare® USA 

Welcome to your DeltaCare USA plan

Online resources

Your online resources from Delta Dental

Online resources including the Cost Estimator

The Cost Estimator and other tools form Delta Dental

Resources for your employees

Multilingual support

Material in other languages, including Spanish and Chinese, is available on request. Delta Dental members can also get translation and accessibility services through the Language Assistance Program.

Material to share with employees

Check out the open enrollment benefits resources page for flyers that you can download and print to share with employees. These flyers cover:

  • Plan basics
  • Using a Delta Dental plan
  • Understanding dentist networks
  • Accessing online resources
  • Orthodontic coverage (braces)
  • Individual coverage
  • Value-added features

Even if your company hasn’t returned to the office, open enrollment doesn’t need to be a challenge. Online resources make choosing the right plan and making the most of it easier than ever before!

Has COVID-19 changed open enrollment forever?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused long-lasting changes to our priorities as a society and as individuals. From canceled events, working from home and separation from friends and family, employees and employers have had to adapt. It’s no wonder that the uncertainty of the pandemic has created changes in open enrollment.

Greater focus on the whole family

In the past year and a half, many adults became caregivers for their parents and took on education roles for their children while also working full-time. Employees are looking for benefits that extend to their family members and benefits that make the care of their family easier, like family and medical leave, assisted living coverage and child care coverage. Getting the whole family covered even extends to furry friends; the number of pets insured in North America has increased 23% since 2019.

Mental health services are more important than ever

The stress and difficulty of the pandemic have taken a toll on mental health. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who reported symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 36% to 42% between August 2020 and February 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before the pandemic, Americans only chose virtual options for mental health care 20% of the time. After the pandemic started, the American Psychiatric Association saw their own members’ usage of telehealth services jump to 85%.

Employers are responding by offering mental health benefits that include access to online resources and apps that address stress and difficulty sleeping. About 70% of employers planned to start, continue or expand investment in mental health resources in 2021, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company. Employers who invest in mental health coverage get results. Almost 86% of employees who are treated for depression symptoms show substantial improvement in work performance, according to one study.

Employees expect to keep using telehealth options

While virtual visits won’t completely replace in-person visits any time soon, they’re definitely sticking around. Telehealth visits spiked during March 2020, but there were 10 times more telehealth visits in March 2021 than in March 2020, according to a market report.

Employees are using telehealth services and, in many cases, they expect to keep using it. In some cases, patients rated their interactions with their providers higher when they had virtual appointments than in-person.

To appeal to a variety of employee preferences, Delta Dental offers two different kinds of virtual dentistry: video-based and photo-based.

Virtual events preferred over in-person

With many employees still working from home and continually changing safety recommendations, in-person enrollment events are still being pushed online. Luckily, virtual enrollment has advantages for you and your employees. Instead of fielding phone calls and emails all day, you can update your website in real time to address common questions. Your employees can research and select benefits without having to keep track of physical papers or even leave the house.

What do successful virtual open enrollment events look like? A study by Flimp Communications concluded that a high-performing open enrollment campaign includes:

  • Microsites. These websites are customized to fulfill your group’s specific benefits needs with unique visuals, video and copy and can be used to address employees’ frequently asked questions.
  • Video. Both short-form and long-form video have a place in your campaign. A short-form video may simply be a quick, supplemental explainer and a long-form video would be more detailed and available for employees on demand.
  • Links. Linking out to your enrollment portal, to helpful PDFs, contact pages or financial-wellness portals helps employees sign up for and best utilize their benefits.
  • Decision support. Tools that collect all key benefits information into one place and then make recommendations based on algorithms or questionnaires had higher-than-average engagement.
  • Analytics. With real-time analytics, you and your team can adjust to help employees answer questions online. When you know what drives traffic, what people want, and when people want it, you’ll be even better prepared for next time.

The pros and cons of virtual events

Technology has its limits, however. The Pew Research Center found that only 26% of internet users aged 65 years or older felt very confident when using electronics to get things done online. If all your materials are online, make sure they’re easy to find for all employees, regardless of skill with technology. That means clearly labeling links and having logical paths through your website, as well as making sure all materials can be easily downloaded and viewed without special software.

In that same vein, virtual open enrollment gives you the opportunity to make materials accessible to employees with disabilities. Gaps in accessibility can leave individuals with visual, hearing and motor disabilities unable to make informed decisions about their health care.

Open enrollment changes motivated by COVID-19 may be here to stay. Adapt your open enrollment offerings to serve employees’ needs during and beyond the pandemic. Being flexible and responsive helps ensure your employees understand their benefits for the year ahead and are able to get the coverage they need.

The intelligent future of dental insurance

First, let’s set the record straight: Artificial intelligence, or AI, in the dental industry doesn’t mean your dentist will be replaced by a robot. (Although, yes, a robot dentist might be kind of awesome.)

Instead, AI technology will bring the accuracy, consistency and efficiency of the delivery of dental care to a new level. And the good news is that this futuristic technology is here now.

What is artificial intelligence, anyway?

While the technology is complicated, the idea behind it is simple: AI uses computer software to analyze large sets of information and find patterns in them. As it gathers more and more information, it gradually learns to assess situations and then make informed decisions or predict outcomes.

So what does artificial intelligence mean for the dental industry?

When a patient visits the dentist for to receive treatment for a dental issue, two things must occur. First, the dentist must determine the appropriate procedure and submit a claim to the insurance company. Second, the insurance company must determine whether the dentist’s claim is valid and the procedure will be covered.

For both dentists and insurers, inconsistency and disagreements during this process can cause frustration and delays, which can in turn lead to frustration and delays in treatment for your employees.

Here’s how AI can help.

AI can make quick, impartial decisions

In many cases, AI can analyze data far more quickly and accurately than a person can, and can act as a second opinion. One of the most promising applications for AI is analyzing oral imagery, or as they’re more commonly known, x‑rays.

“When dentists make diagnostic decisions, there are clear-cut rules,” said Dr. Daniel Croley, Delta Dental’s chief dental officer. “There are clinical rules that say, ‘This is decay,’ or ‘This is periodontal disease.’ However, that’s also open to some interpretation, and dentists have different levels of aggression when they want to treat disease.”

AI analyzes x‑rays to bring consistency and reliability to decision making, Croley said.

AI can help eliminate fraud

Certainly, most dentists are ethical and want to provide only appropriate treatment for their patients. Still, insurers have to watch out for those few bad actors who abuse the system to help ensure dental care remains safe, effective, available and affordable for your employees.

For questionable claims, insurance companies have teams of dentists available to review claims and the accompanying x‑rays for fraud. But the volume of claims insurers receive (Delta Dental processed more than 34 million claims in 2020), makes manually reviewing every claim for fraud impossible.

AI can help dramatically expand insurers’ ability to detect fraud. By being able to examine and compare thousands of x‑rays, AI can quickly detect abuse such as resubmission fraud, where a dentist uses the same x‑ray to submit multiple claims, and overdiagnosis. (It can also identify honest errors, such as when a dentist mistakenly submits the wrong image.)

Because AI can retain vast amounts of information and compare it instantly, Croley said, it can identify potential fraud much more easily than a person can.

“It will be able to not only to review reports like we do to determine how a certain procedure was done,” Croley said, “but it can also look at the x‑ray that was submitted with it and say, ‘Hey, this was submitted last year for another patient.’ AI will be able to recognize that and learn as it as it goes along.”

It’s for this reason that Croley believes fraud detection is emerging as one of the leading uses for AI in dentistry right now.

This ability to detect fraud quickly and accurately is a win for everyone. It protects insurance companies from dishonest dentists and conversely ensures that ethical dentists are treated fairly by insurers when they submit claims. This trust and efficiency will in turn inspire confidence for your employees.

“We only want to have quality dentists and dentists who deliver quality care in our network,” Croley said. “What AI will help us do is to monitor our network very closely, develop appropriate oversight plans and then take action when necessary. And I think how that manifests for our members is more confidence in the dentists that are endorsed by Delta Dental as network providers.”

The future for AI in dental insurance looks bright

AI is still an emerging and evolving technology, so its full promise hasn’t been realized, and there are still challenges that must be overcome. For instance, many states require a licensed dentist to be involved in any review of a dental claim.

“There’s still a lot of rules around benefit determination at the state level,” Croley said, “but once regulation starts to keep up with the technology, we may see some of that evolve from a regulatory standpoint.”

Still, Croley is optimistic about AI’s potential and what it will mean for your employees. He believes AI will enable Delta Dental to improve the quality of treatment that its dentists deliver and members receive. This in turn will increase members’ confidence in Delta Dental.

“This is what I’m excited about,” Croley said.” People trust us to do the right thing, and AI will enhance the level of trust that they have with us.”

Oral health resources for Spanish-speaking employees

Language should never be a barrier to receiving proper care. One in seven people in the U.S. speaks Spanish at home, yet Hispanic adults with limited proficiency in English receive about one-third less health care than those with English proficiency.

In taking steps to bridge this gap, Delta Dental offers a variety of language assistance options for both you and your Spanish-speaking employees with a limited proficiency in English. Whether your employees are looking to improve their health from home or in their dentist’s chair, there is a resource just for them.

Resources for benefits administrators

  • Our website, and all its offerings, can be found in Spanish. This includes plan information, wellness articles, videos and even Grin! magazine and is a perfect introduction to Delta Dental for new employees with limited English. You can assist your employees in finding the information they need about their plan by sharing helpful links that have already been translated.
  • Flyers are a great way to share important information on common issues and conditions with your employees. Many of our monthly wellness materials and benefits resources can be found translated and ready to print on our Employee Resources page, which is also available in English. Looking for a document that’s available in English, but not yet in Spanish? Let your account manager know and our team will be happy to make a translation available.

Resources for employees

  • Customer Service is available in Spanish, as well as English. To talk to a representative in Spanish, members can call 866–530-9675 and dial 8 when prompted. Answers to our most frequently asked questions are also available in Spanish on our website.
  • Interpretation services are also available for in-person dental appointments when a Spanish-speaking staff member isn’t available. To request this service, members should contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance of an appointment.
  • The online dentist directory is not only available in Spanish, but it includes information on which practices have Spanish-speaking staff. Members can use the Refine Search tool to find a Spanish-speaking dentist nearby.

Helping your employees find the right dentist to fit their needs has never been easier. Learn more about Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program and how it can benefit your diverse team.

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