Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: economy

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.

Why dental insurance matters for employees

Open enrollment season is here, and that means it’s time for employees to review their benefits and choose their insurance plans for next year. Most people probably think of medical insurance first, but your employees shouldn’t forget about dental insurance, either.

The value of dental insurance may not be immediately obvious to your employees, but dental insurance is always an important part of any benefits package. Any dental plan that emphasizes diagnostic and preventive care can go a long way towards keeping employees happy and healthy, and additional coverage can make a big difference when major services are required.

Here are three ways you can show them how having dental insurance helps protect employees’ health, happiness and pocketbooks.

1. It keeps employees healthy, and that matters during a pandemic.

People who have dental insurance are more likely to go to the dentist than those without coverage. One of the most valuable benefits of dental insurance is having access to regular diagnostic and preventive care in the form of x‑rays and examinations. In addition to keeping employees’ smiles bright and healthy, these services can also help identify major diseases that have oral symptoms, such as diabetes and kidney disease.

Additionally, poor oral health can have negative effects on overall health. Poor oral health is linked to conditions like heart disease and pneumonia. It’s worth considering that many pre-existing conditions can be risk factors for COVID-19, so staying on top of oral health is especially important for preventing new issues and managing existing ones.

2. It helps keep employees’ morale up, and that means a lot when people are worried about the future.

Americans are feeling pessimistic about the future, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. It makes sense that more people would feel anxious and concerned when COVID-19 is still making news and the economy remain unsteady: People are worried about their personal and financial well-being.

The sense of safety and security that comes from having insurance can help alleviate some of these fears. Over 90% of employees rate health care benefits as important. According to Milbank Quarterly, employees want insurance “in order to protect against the catastrophic costs of serious illness and to ensure access to medical care” for themselves and their families. The coverage that comes from an employer, especially if it comes at a discounted group rate, can help employees to feel at easy during the fear and uncertainty of our present time.

3. It saves your employees money, and that’s always important.

One of the biggest financial advantages of having dental coverage is that it helps to cover the cost of major dental care. People without insurance tend to experience greater variability in dental costs than those with insurance. Major procedures like root canals and crowns are usually more expensive than simpler ones like cleanings and fillings, but Delta Dental helps to keep out-of-pocket costs down.

Having dental insurance means employees will enjoy increased savings in the form of:

  • Diagnostic and preventive care covered at low or no cost
  • Lower costs for expensive procedures (since the cost is shared by the plan)
  • Discounted fees at in-network dentists

Going to dentists within the Delta Dental network also means that your employees will have safeguards and guarantees in place to ensure that they’re getting both great value and great service. When your employees need major care or have issues with their dentists, a Delta Dental plan can mean the difference between simple predictable costs and unpleasant surprise bills.

This open enrollment season, don’t forget to show your employees how dental insurance is an important part of their benefits package. Help employees make decisions that will let them save money and stay healthy.

When life happens, there’s Smile On

As a benefits administrator, you know that people’s life circumstances can change at the drop of a hat. Most people get their insurance coverage through work, but what happens when they retire, lose their job or take a break from work? That’s when the Smile On program is there for them.

Smile On is a program designed to help employees with group benefits transition to individual plans. With this program, your employees don’t have to worry about losing dental insurance when their employer-offered coverage ends.

Smile On helps your employees stay covered

Retiring, being in between jobs, or being a contractor or part-timer shouldn’t mean going without dental coverage. That’s why Delta Dental offers the Smile On program.

Smile On offers an easy way to connect your employees with existing individual plans. Smile On plans are new coverage and not a continuation of plans your employees may currently have, but they still provide the essential coverage that helps your employees stay healthy and save money on dental costs. They’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing that what’s important is covered.

Best of all, getting a plan is something that employees can handle all on their own. They just need to visit the Smile On page, get a quote and choose from the plans available in their ZIP code.

Smile On is easy to promote

You won’t be going it alone when you present Smile On to your employees. There’s a flyer you can use help them understand all that the program offers.

Remember, when your employees need coverage the most, Smile On helps you meet their needs.

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