Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Author: Delta Dental (Page 2 of 20)

Delta Dental gives access to healthy smiles in many languages

Language should never be a barrier when it comes to health care. If any of your employees have limited proficiency in English, direct them to Delta Dental’s Language Assistance Program (LAP). This service is free for members and perfect for employees who communicate in languages other than English to better understand their plans or even to communicate with their dentist.

The LAP offers a variety of language accessibility services, including:

  • The Delta Dental website in Spanish offers information on Delta Dental’s different plans, as well as articles jampacked with valuable wellness information.
  • Customer service is offered in 170 different languages. Simply call 866–530-9675 and request an interpreter.
  • Delta Dental’s online dentist directory is available in both Spanish and English and includes the languages spoken by dentists and staff members. This is a great tool for helping members find a dental office where their language is spoken.
  • In-person interpretation services are also available for dental visits. If a member cannot find a dentist who speaks their language, Delta Dental can arrange to have an interpreter present during their next appointment. In addition to non-English languages, American Sign Language interpretation can also be requested. All the member needs to do is contact Customer Service at least 72 hours in advance and make the request.
  • Document translation to any non-English language can be requested for any written materials, such as benefits information. Accessible formats like braille and audio files can also be requested.

If any of your employees are having trouble communicating with their dentist, call Delta Dental to arrange for a qualified interpreter to help via phone. 

Delta Dental telephone numbers for interpretive services: 

  • State Government Programs: 877–580-1042 
  • Delta Dental Premier®/Delta Dental PPO™: 888–335-8227 
  • DeltaCare® USA: 800–422-4234 
  • DeltaVision®: 888–963-6576 
  • TTY 711 

The new normal: hybrid workplaces

Over a year after non-essential workers quickly adapted to operating from home, a survey by PwC found that nearly 70% of executives believe that employees should return to the office three days a week while just 20% of employees agreed with that sentiment. In fact, that survey also found that 30% of employees would stay remote a full five days a week if allowed. Additionally, the New York Times found that just 25% of workers would prefer to go back to an office full-time. As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted, the compromise for many offices has been hybrid work models. These models not only accommodate workers both remote and in the office as a means of safety, but have also become staples of employee satisfaction.

“Compromise,” however, is the key word. As hybrid work is new to much of today’s workforce, a learning curve is to be anticipated. Here’s what you need to know about the future of hybrid workplaces.

Why go hybrid?

In a post-pandemic world, only one thing is for certain: there is no “back to normal.” Many everyday practices have evolved to accommodate new health and safety protocols, including day-to-day office life. In a hybrid model, social distancing is made easier by having less people in the office, thereby minimizing the chance of a virus running rampant.

Going hybrid may also help companies save budget otherwise spent on office space. As of January 2021, demand for office leasing was down 61% from December 2019, according to Business Wire. As some businesses opt to let go of their leases, they might also choose to stagger in-office and work from home days for some teams to accommodate staff while maintaining less space.

While some companies may fear that this newfound flexibility could hurt productivity, research shows that it is simply not the case. A 2020 report by Microsoft found that 82% of the leaders they’d surveyed found their teams to be at least as productive working in their new remote environments as they had been in an office.

In addition to flexibility, other advantages include:

Disadvantages of remote work

As many workers have now experienced, not every aspect of remote working is a positive. While the hybrid model might help remedy some of the disadvantages, there are still some concerns:

  • Burnout. Perhaps you’ve heard of, or even experienced, “Zoom fatigue” — the physical and mental exhaustion brought on by too many video conferences. Screen burnout is very real. In a hybrid work culture, time spent with your team truly face-to-face may help relieve that draining feeling associated with spending hours meeting virtually.
  • Company culture. One disadvantage of working from home cited repeatedly through the pandemic was the feeling that company culture and values are harder to upkeep virtually. Bringing workers back to the office a few times a week may help create physical reminders of the company mission.
  • Reliance on technology. Technology is not infallible. There are internet outages, security risks and keyboards accidentally taken out with a spilled water bottle. When a single laptop is your only means to get the job done, there’s a lot riding on a little piece of technology.

Considerations for employers

With so much uncertainty about what the next year holds, flexibility and adaptability in the workplace is an important consideration for all employers. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, these are a few of the questions that company leaders should ask themselves when considering a hybrid workplace:

  • Why does a specific employee need to perform his or her work in the office?
  • To what extent does an employee need to collaborate with others?
  • How is someone feeling about working from home versus in the office?
  • Is that person feeling disconnected or overwhelmed?
  • Is the employee clear about the organization’s strategy and his or her role and responsibilities?
  • What types of meetings are best to hold in person?

Perhaps the largest lesson for employers from all of this is that employee safety should always be at the forefront. Whether employees spend their days at home or in the office, keeping them viable, healthy and happy is a victory in and of itself.

Kids’ unmet oral health needs highlighted by the pandemic

When your employees become parents, they receive an onslaught of information about their child’s growth markers and health checkups from immunizations to well-child visits. When it comes to dental care, however, less than half of parents receive professional advice on when to start taking their child to the dentist.

And lack of guidance is only the beginning of the problem. Access to dental care has been an ongoing challenge for U.S. children, but during the pandemic, dental care emerged as children’s greatest unmet health need, according to a recent study published in JADA.

What does this mean for your employees and their children, and what can you do to support them?

The pandemic’s effect on pediatric oral health

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, dental disease among children was rampant:

The pandemic made these problems worse by stressing the financial systems that delivers dental care with income and job losses. Households were three times more likely to identify dental care as an unmet health need as a result of the pandemic compared to medical care, according to a JADA study. The authors found a significant association between the probability of unmet child dental care and pandemic-related household income or job loss.

About 40% of families reported the loss of a job or decrease in income due to the pandemic. Before the pandemic, children from families with lower income or who were on Medicaid were twice as likely to have cavities than children from higher-income households. Whether due to lost or decreased income, fear of contracting COVID-19 and mixed communication from health organizations, dental care visits dropped in 2020.

Many people were able to stay covered for medical procedures due to robust signups for Medicare and Medicaid pandemic. But cost remains the major barrier to receiving dental care, since Medicare and Medicaid packages rarely cover many dental procedures. Although access to pediatric dental care has grown for families with public insurance since the early 2000s, kids in low-income families are still less likely to visit the dentist regularly. Additional barriers include difficulty finding a willing dentist, transportation and geographic proximity to dental providers.

Potential solutions for children’s unmet oral health needs

As a benefit administrator, you can invest time into communication efforts that may bridge knowledge gaps among your employees. Here are a couple of ways you can get started:

  • Talk about timelines. Inform your employees about recommended timelines for pediatric care to guarantee they get the information they need, whether or not their dentists communicate that information.
  • Design your package. When you’re designing your benefits package, cover important preventive services for kids, like sealants and fluoride treatments.
  • Highlight plan features. Encourage employees to take advantage of aspects of their insurance, like teledentistry coverage, that can make pediatric care easier. Did you know that 75% of pediatric dentists offer virtual services, compared to only a third of general dentists?
  • Share materials. Explore Delta Dental’s wellness resources and share a selection of helpful articles and flyers in an email or on an internal site. You can even highlight assets that are made for kids, like MySmileKids and Grin! for Kids.
  • Be consistent. When communicating helpful information to your employees, using multiple channels can be confusing and difficult to keep track of. Find a simple routine for sharing, like posting information on an internal webpage with monthly or quarterly email notifications, so that your employees always know where to look.

How Delta Dental invests in communities

To help dentists make investments in their communities, the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation awards several million dollars in grants each year to increase access to care. These awards enable underserved individuals, including children, to get preventive and restorative treatments in accessible locations. More than 250 organizations received funding from the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation during the COVID-19 pandemic, totaling $11 million to provide relief. Many of these clinics support and serve children.

These Access to Care grants fund activities designed to remove barriers to seeking care such as distance, cost, and even fear. The grants can be used to set up mobile or pop-up clinics in a local community, provide dental care in underserved clinical settings, fund outreach programs or offset costs for clinics that routinely provide care to underserved populations.

What comes next

There will probably be some relief for underserved communities, including children, soon. The U.S. economy seems to be recovering. The national unemployment rate is projected to fall to 5.3% by the end of the year.

But the problems highlighted by the pandemic shouldn’t be ignored. As a benefits administrator, you can’t be expected to fix all of the problems in the American economy or health care industry. Still, by highlighting resources and keeping your employees informed, you can positively affect the employees you work with and their children.

Does gum disease affect blood pressure?

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, and your employees need to be aware of the risks of hypertension and how to keep blood pressure under control. During their dental visits, employees can monitor their status through blood pressure checks.

The causal link between gum disease and hypertension

Patients with periodontitis and no other health issues are twice as likely to have elevated blood pressure as those with healthy gums, according to a March 2021 research study. Periodontal bacteria can trigger an inflammatory response that affects blood vessel function and lead to the development of hypertension.

Before a Delta Dental dentist starts an exam, a blood pressure check can reveal issues beyond oral health. Patients with gum disease may be at higher risk for hypertension, due to bacteria. Research has found a correlation between oral bacteria and plaque buildup in arteries.

A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Your employee should be concerned if the systolic/diastolic reading falls into one of these categories:

  • Elevated: 120–129 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: 130–139 mm Hg or 80–89 mm Hg
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: >140 mm Hg or > 90 mm Hg

Hypertension can put your employees at risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half (45%) the adults in the U.S. have hypertension or are taking medication to control it, and 24% of them have it under control. 

The dangers of gum disease

Gum disease triggers inflammation that thickens the lining of blood vessels. The thickening plaques decrease blood flow, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Patients with healthier gums had lower blood pressure and responded better to medications, compared to those with periodontitis, according to an analysis, published in Hypertension, based on review of medical and dental exam records of more than 3,600 people with high blood pressure.

What’s more, periodontal therapy can make a difference. Intensive periodontal treatment lowered blood pressure levels (12.67 mm Hg/9.65 mm Hg) in patients over six months, after a four-week intervention, according to a clinical study published in 2017 in the Journal of Periodontology.

During an office visit, the dentist can check blood pressure and alert the employee to risks if the reading is elevated. This first-line screening can ensure proper medical treatment can be given.

Educating your employees

As a benefits administrator, you can promote for blood pressure control awareness and healthy habits to your employees to help prevent serious health issues. In addition to adequate nutrition, exercise and sleep, you can emphasize the importance of regular checkups by health care providers.

You can encourage employees to take a quiz to determine their gum disease risk. Delta Dental dentists can explain how keeping gums healthy can contribute to better circulation and heart function through lowering blood pressure.

For employees with heart disease, you can offer SmileWay Wellness Benefits to give them incentives for keeping it under control. Their periodontal treatment and advice on daily flossing and brushing regimens add value to your employees’ plan, not only for oral health but also for heart health.

Accessibility — more than just a buzzword

When most people think of accessibility, they may think of wheelchair ramps and designated parking spaces. But when it comes to ensuring high-quality care for your employees, accessibility is about more than the physical world. Accessibility extends into digital spaces and into the interactions that people have in their day-to-day lives. Let’s take a look at the ways accessibility can be an important part of dental insurance and what it means for your employees.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about making an experience available to the widest group of people, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities. That can include:

  • Using alternate text in images so that screen readers can describe them to users who are blind
  • Providing transcripts of videos for users who are deaf
  • Designing websites simply for users who have cognitive disabilities

What this means for your employees is simple: when your employees visit Delta Dental’s website or need to call customer service, their questions will be answered and their needs will be met, no matter their abilities.

Why does accessibility matter?

[Accessibility] improves people’s lives. And how often do you get a chance in your job to dramatically improve other people’s lives by just doing your work a little better?

Steve Krug, user experience professional

There are legal reasons to make accessibility a priority. Under laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, it is illegal to have federal electronic and information technology inaccessible to people with disabilities or to discriminate on the basis of disability.

But accessibility is about more than just avoiding a lawsuit. Accessibility is about inclusivity for all of your employees, no matter their needs. With just a little effort, impediments like being unable to hear a video or read a website can be overcome, and more people will be able to access the quality care that they deserve.

Additionally, designing websites and implementing customer service practices that make life easier for those with disabilities often makes life easier for everyone. Regardless of their abilities, everyone appreciates simple and intuitive designs and being able to change settings to their personal preferences when it comes to interacting with websites and customer service platforms.

What is Delta Dental doing to advance accessibility?

At Delta Dental, we are committed to ensuring the accessibility of our products and services for everyone. We are committed to providing a platform that goes beyond mere compliance and seeks to provide a more meaningful experience for our customers with diverse backgrounds, abilities and perceptions. Our website and other products comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 levels A/AA, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), in addition to other local governing laws. For more information, see our accessibility statement.

In real terms, that means supporting the web browsers your employees might use, including Chrome, Edge, Safari and Firefox in desktop and mobile web views, as well as assistive technology including, but not limited to, screen readers and magnifiers on various platforms. We also provide services for non-English speaking employees through the Language Assistance Program (LAP). Through LAP, your employees can request documents in accessible formats, like Braille, and have on-site American Sign Language interpreters accompany them during dental visits. To take advantage of these services, including instructions on requesting an on-site interpreter, your employees can visit our language assistance page or call customer service.

Accessibility is about more than just checking boxes and meeting requirements. It’s really about providing a high quality experience for everyone. We’re proud to join you in bringing all of your employees great dental care.

How to support your Asian American and Pacific Islander employees

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, and it’s a great time to celebrate and honor your AAPI employees. In addition to fun and festivities at work, one way to help your employees feel seen and heard is to offer them quality benefits that fit their needs. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to let your AAPI employees know you have their back.

What hurdles do AAPI populations face when accessing dental care?

In general, racial and ethnic minorities can face extra difficulties when it comes to accessing oral health care in the United States. When it comes to AAPI populations, individuals’ time spent in the United States is the strongest predictor of whether or not they’ve recently visited the dentist. Native-born and long-time residents are more likely to visit the dentist than recent immigrants for three reasons:

  • They’ve likely had more experience with the U.S. health care system. Outside the U.S., dental and medical are often both covered through the same insurance system and may even be available within a single medical center. New immigrants face a learning curve navigating the U.S. system.
  • They’re likely more comfortable communicating in English. Language barriers can make it difficult to find dental insurance, understand coverage and communicate with a dentist.
  • They’re likely wealthier than recent immigrants, so they have an easier time accessing and affording care. Wealth increases for immigrants of all races as the time they spend in the U.S. increases.

These may seem like issues that can only be solved by time, but dental insurance can help to address them. Dental insurance:

  • Assists employees in understanding the care they need by making diagnostic and preventive care available at no cost or low-cost
  • Reduces employees’ out-of-pocket costs with contracted rates at in-network dentists and cost sharing
  • Helps to bridge language and experience gaps with written material in multiple languages and in-person interpretation

How can I support my AAPI employees?

When it comes to supporting AAPI employees, actions are more important than words. Offer resources that help them get the care they need and alert them to the existence of these resources. If employees are unfamiliar with insurance or dental care systems, they may not know what they need!

If you have a large population of AAPI employees with limited English proficiency, consider providing materials (such as benefits highlight sheets) in their native languages to help them understand their coverage. Delta Dental can provide translations of these essential documents for you to distribute. Just talk to your account manager.

What resources does Delta Dental offer to its AAPI members?

Language barriers can be a major impediment to effectively communicating with a dentist and getting needed care. Approximately 77% of AAPI families speak non-English languages at home. The most common AAPI languages in the United States are:

  • Chinese
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Korean
  • Hindi and Urdu

Delta Dental offers resources and tools to all of its members that may be especially useful to your AAPI employees and their families, including:

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that employees can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person interpreter when given 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Employees can use Delta Dental’s online directory to locate dentists who fit their specific needs. They can search by distance and specialty or search by languages spoken (such as Chinese or Tagalog) and accessibility features.

May is AAPI Heritage Month, but there’s no bad time for considering your employee’s dental care needs. Offering quality benefits like dental insurance is a great way to support the health of your AAPI employees, their families and everyone else on your staff, too.

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