Word of Mouth

Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

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Effective discount: Understanding a plan’s true savings

When you consider a PPO dental plan, certainly one of the deciding factors is savings — during a dental visit, how much will this plan save my employees?

Traditionally, a good way to judge this has been to consider the plan’s PPO network discount, or the discount offered on dental services when visiting a dentist within the plan’s PPO network. After factoring in the fees, the greater the discount, the better the plan, right?

Not exactly. While PPO network discount is one chapter of savings, it’s not the whole story. A more accurate way to gauge a plan’s true savings is to consider the plan’s effective discount. The effective discount considers the average savings enrollees receive when visiting any dentist, either in network or out of network.

It’s here where Delta Dental offers a unique advantage: the Delta Dental PPO™ plan with the Delta Dental Premier® network.

With most PPO plans, the PPO network is absolute — you’re in or you’re out. And if you visit an out-of-network dentist, you’re responsible for the full cost of dental services provided by that dentist. The Premier network offers a secondary network that acts as a “safety net” if a PPO enrollee can’t find, or chooses not to visit, a dentist within the PPO network.

While the Premier network provides a smaller discount than the PPO network, the combined size of the two networks — more than 155,000 unique dentists as of 2020 — ensures that most people covered under a PPO plan can visit a Delta Dental dentist and save. This large network enables Delta Dental to deliver a national network utilization rate of 94%, compared to an average PPO utilization of 65% for competitor networks.

And it’s this safety net that often makes a Delta Dental PPO plan a better value than one from another company.

For example, let’s look at a theoretical example in which there are two group PPO plans with identical fees: one from Delta Dental and one from a carrier without a secondary network. In each scenario, 10 people are insured. Five visit PPO dentists and receive a discount, and five visit non-PPO dentists. The Delta Dental plan provides a 35% discount at PPO dentists. The other plan provides a 36% discount at PPO dentists.

Given the otherwise identical scenarios, it might at first seem that the plan with the higher PPO network discount offers the better value. However, in the Delta Dental plan, four people can visit a Premier dentist for a 19% discount. Because only one person visits a non–Delta Dental dentist, the group receives a total effective discount of 25%. Contrast this with the other plan. Because half receive no discount at all, the effective discount is only 18%.

It’s not surprising then that Delta Dental offers groups the best effective discount in the country, averaging 29.4% nationally in 2019, according to a July 2020 study by Dental Actuarial Analytics. This equals more than $8.2B in savings for enrollees annually when compared to dentists’ average charges for services.

So remember when considering a dental plan for employees, savings is more than PPO discounts. When you consider effective discount, you offer a complete story. With an ending your employees should like.

Select ancillary benefits that fit your employees’ needs

Dentist documenting findings during an exam with patient.

To complement your group medical plan, you should select ancillary benefits that add financial value and wellness incentives for your employees.

Nearly 60% of responding hiring managers, human resources professionals and workers identified better benefits as a key strategy to strengthen connections with employees and reduce turnover, according to a 2018 Career Builder survey. Using ancillary benefits to enhance total compensation for employees is a way to do this.

Millennials cite better benefits as a reason to change employers, along with seeking a new role, or career path dissatisfaction.

Why should your company offer ancillary benefits?

An ancillary benefit covers a specific need not addressed by your company’s group medical insurance plan. Dental, vision, life, disability and even pet insurance are complementary products that you can integrate into your benefit package.

This can strengthen your company’s relationship with employees. Ancillary benefits deliver value through access to health care plans and financial solutions that enhance total wellness, lower out-of-pocket expenses and give peace of mind.

With the option to select whatever benefit fits their individual or family needs, employees can customize an overall package that gives them peace of mind and job satisfaction.

Through surveys, you can determine what ancillary benefits employees are seeking, and then shape your benefit package accordingly.

What value do ancillary benefits add to your company?

Offering ancillary benefits shows that your company’s priorities match employees’ priorities. It is an investment that brings returns for your company through better employee health and financial stability, cost effectiveness and increased worker retention.

Companies saved $5.8 billion over four years by offering stand-alone vision plans, according to a study by the HCMS Group. The plan savings came from reduced health care costs, avoided productivity losses and lower turnover rates. These generally include contact lenses or glasses, and allowances for LASIK or PRK refractive surgery, and a comprehensive eye exam. An annual eye exam can reveal symptoms of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood sugar or high cholesterol.

Although 75% of millennials don’t carry life insurance, this benefit becomes more important to employees in later stages of their careers. The average worker has a 30% chance of becoming disabled, so a short-term or long-term insurance plan provides backup. Millennials make up 35% of all pet owners, and a 2018 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management revealed that 11% of U.S. employers offered pet insurance, up from 6% in 2014, with one in three Fortune 500 companies offering this ancillary benefit.

How a dental plan delivers value

According to an American Dental Association survey, 30% of young adults have tooth decay. As an ancillary benefit, a dental plan includes diagnostic and preventive services that go beyond maintaining employees’ oral health.

Dentists not only evaluate periodontal disease but also diagnose symptoms of major health issues, such as diabetes, during routine exams. Early detection enables employees to seek treatment that may avoid more expensive interventions. It can help your company control long-term health care costs and provide financial stability for employees.

Delta Dental offers dental plans that easily complement, and integrate with, your existing group health plans. Whether your company contributes to premiums or not, giving access to a dental plan as an ancillary benefit ensures a focus on total wellness and value for employees.

New videos help explain Delta Dental’s online tools and networks

With a new series of educational videos, it’s easy to help your employees understand their plans. Whether your organization offers Delta Dental PPO™, DeltaCare® USA or both, you’ll find useful resources to explain Delta Dental’s networks and online tools.

Get to know Delta Dental’s online tools

Encourage your employees to sign up for an online account. This video walks employees through the robust online tools Delta Dental offers, including plan details, claim history, personalized cost estimates, the online dentist directory and a wealth of wellness resources.

What if your group’s plan doesn’t include the Cost Estimator? No worries. This shorter version of the same video touches on the same helpful features, minus the personalized cost estimate.

Understand the Delta Dental networks

A PPO plan offers savings, quality assurance and simplicity. Through this video, your employees will learn the advantages of this plan and the steps for finding a PPO dentist online.

Want to expand your employees’ options with the Delta Dental Premier® network? This video introduces both the PPO and Premier networks and explain how to search for both in our dentist directory.

If you offer a DeltaCare USA plan, help your employees understand how this prepaid plan works and show them how to select a primary care dentist.

Ensure accessibility

These videos were designed with accessibility in mind. While the vibrant visuals support the narration, all key messages are conveyed in the audio, which can also be accessed through closed captioning.

Share the videos with your employees

To share these videos on your website or intranet, just click on the videos to navigate to YouTube. Below the video you wish to share, click on Share > Embed. Then copy and paste the code into your webpage or intranet site.

New teledentistry options: Toothpic and Virtual Consult

Two new teledentistry options have come to Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier® plans to deliver more value to members. Say hello to Toothpic and Delta Dental – Virtual Consult.

Utilizing these options doesn’t require any changes to the way your employees use their plans or cost your organization extra. Instead, they’re a new way for your employees to use their existing plan benefits — remotely. These new tools are an ongoing covered benefit and have no additional administrative costs or access fees for your group or your employees.1 When your employees use either of these tools, they can rest easy knowing that they’ll be connected with a licensed Delta Dental dentist they can trust.

Toothpic

Toothpic is a secure HIPAA-compliant app that provides a photo-based virtual diagnostic assessment from anywhere you have a smart device and an internet connection. It’s perfect for those who want a dental checkup with a Delta Dental dentist without an appointment. Toothpic lets your employees:

  • Get evaluations on their own schedule by submitting pictures of their mouth, teeth and gums
  • Receive a personalized in-depth report from a Delta Dental dentist within 24 hours
  • Check in for diagnoses on areas of concern and get info about their next steps

Virtual Consult

Virtual Consult is a secure HIPAA-compliant video-based tool for having a virtual appointment with a dentist. It’s ideal for your employees who have urgent oral care needs, like pain or a cracked or chipped tooth, and want to speak directly with a Delta Dental dentist. With Virtual Consult, your employees can:

  • Schedule and have a video appointment with a Delta Dental dentist without leaving home
  • Have quick real-time consultations on urgent issues even if they don’t have a dentist they see regularly
  • Get an e‑prescription and aftercare instructions for pain or infection

Virtual dentistry allows your employees to check in on their oral health from the comfort of their own home. Whether they’re just looking for a quick check-in or have an urgent concern, these teledentistry options can help them meet their needs with all the ease telehealth offers.

1. Members who have 100% coverage for oral evaluations and who have not exceeded their frequency limitations for office visits or limited oral evaluations are eligible to use Toothpic and Virtual Consult. Using Toothpic to receive a diagnostic report or using Virtual Consult for a remote visit each count as one office visit/oral evaluation for the purpose of frequency limitations.

The truth about amalgam fillings

Dental exam

When an employee needs a tooth filled, the dentist can perform this procedure by using a metal-based amalgam or a composite material. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently advised against the use of dental amalgam in high-risk groups. What do these recommendations mean for your employees? Let’s consider the facts about amalgam.

What is the case against dental amalgam?

Amalgam fillings contain a mixture of mercury and a powdered alloy containing silver, tin and copper.

In its recommendations released Sept. 24, 2020, the FDA suggested that certain groups of people, including pregnant and nursing women, children under 6 and people with allergy, pre-existing neurological disease or impaired kidney function may experience harmful effects of mercury exposure.

The FDA cited “uncertainties about the acceptable reference exposure levels for mercury vapor” and the potential for negative health outcomes. The FDA did not cite any new scientific evidence for this position.

What is Delta Dental’s position on dental amalgam?

Amalgam is a long-lasting, clinically effective tooth restorative material and has a proven track record of over 150 years. Based on the scientific evidence available, amalgam fillings do not pose a health risk to children or adults, except the small group of people who are allergic to the metal components of amalgam.

The mercury in fillings is safe in its bound form. When it breaks down, however, mercury can be released as vapor. Exposure to high levels of mercury vapor — higher than those in fillings — can cause damage to the kidneys and brain, according to industrial studies.

Make sure your employees, who may be in risk groups or otherwise have health concerns, know that they have treatment options. The use of amalgam has declined, due to application of alternative materials, according to the recent FDA statement.

There are no changes to Delta Dental’s coverage of restorative treatments such as amalgam and composite fillings.

When should amalgam fillings be removed?

The FDA advises against removing or replacing existing amalgam fillings that are in good condition unless medically necessary. This aligns with Delta Dental’s recommendation.

If an employee has an amalgam filling in good condition, with no nearby decay present in the tooth, the filling should not be removed. Removal may result in loss of tooth structure and unnecessarily releases mercury vapor.

If, however, amalgam removal is warranted, dental offices are required to follow a 2017 ruling from the Environmental Protection Agency regarding procedures and disposal, so your employees can have it safely done.

Why dentist offices are safe

As your employees consider a visit to the dentist, they may be concerned about potential exposure to the coronavirus. Fortunately, the steps that dentists take to protect themselves, their staff and their patients from COVID-19 means that a trip to the dentist is actually quite safe. Here are the facts.

Dentists do all they can to make their office safe

As health care professionals, dentists and their staff follow strict infection control protocol. Over 99% of dentists have implemented enhanced infection prevention and control processes, according to the American Dental Association.

That hard work has certainly paid off; fewer than 1% of dentists nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the same study. That’s pretty impressive when you consider that dentists spend their days working on people’s mouths!

Here’s how dentists have accomplished this feat:

  • New technology has become more common as dentists’ offices have adapted to the realities of the pandemic. That means when people visit the dentist, they can expect to see machines like air purifiers, high-volume evacuators, infrared thermometers and hand sanitizer stations.
  • New processes such as rinses with disinfecting mouthwash and enhanced suction during cleanings and exams are now the norm at many dentists’ offices. These strategies help inactivate viruses in patients’ mouths and droplets in the air, allowing dentists to help fight the spread of infection. Dentists may also rely on teledentistry for exams rather than have patients come into the office.
  • New policies like having patients wait in the car to be seen and seeing fewer patients concurrently help reduce the risk of infection as well. The less time patients spend in the office and the fewer things they touch while there means less chance of exposure to COVID-19.

The steps take not prevent the spread of COVID-19 will vary from dentist office to office, but for a more in-depth overview of what your employees can expect, refer them to Grin!, our enrollee wellness e‑magazine.

Why employees might not want to visit the dentist (and why they should)

When people explain why they don’t want to go to the dentist during the pandemic, there are a few common reasons. It’s natural to have concerns about safety and costs, but it’s also important to realize that there are risks when it comes to avoiding the dentist as well.

  • “I want to socially distance as much as possible until I’ve been vaccinated.” This is a perfectly valid concern. At the same time, a visit to the dentist carries less risk of exposure than visiting other indoor areas. Dentists have the tools and training to minimize the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus.
  • “I don’t want to sit in a crowded waiting room.” The good news is, dentists don’t want people sitting in crowded waiting rooms, either! That’s why they’ve taken steps like having patients wait in their cars, seeing fewer patients at a given time and removed waiting room furniture.
  • “I’m not in any pain, so I don’t need to see the dentist.” People who wait until they’re in pain to go to the dentist likely have issues such as severe cavities or infected root canals that could have been avoided if they’d gone in for regular cleanings and exams. Taking advantage of the diagnostic and preventive care offered with Delta Dental plans can help catch oral health issues before they become serious, and that helps to keep pain and costs down.
  • “My teeth look fine, so I don’t need to see the dentist.” It’s possible to develop oral health issues that aren’t obvious when looking in the bathroom mirror. Going to a dentist to detect issues like gum disease is important. Additionally, there are serious health issues that can have oral symptoms, such as diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. A visit to the dentist can help detect these issues as well.
  • “I’m too busy to spend time finding a dentist or making it into the office.” It can be hard to find time away from work or school to make it to the dentist. Fortunately, teledentistry has made it easier than ever before to connect with oral health professionals from the comfort of your home or office. Additionally, Delta Dental will soon offer tools that can connect members with a Delta Dental PPO™ dentist for a dental diagnostic report or video consultation.

Don’t be afraid to go to the dentist

When it comes to the dentist’s office, your employees can rest easy knowing that they can stay safe and healthy when it’s time for a visit. That’s sure to be a smile on their face.

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