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Sinking Your Teeth Into Dental Benefits

According to one dental benefits carrier, only 30 to 40 percent of employees use the benefits in their dental preferred provider organization network.

April 8, 2014
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Related Topics: Health Care Costs, Benefits Outsourcing, Benefit Design and Communication, Health and Wellness, The Latest, Benefits
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Providing dental insurance doesn’t mean employees will actually take care of their teeth. It’s a story Delta Dental knows well.

According to the dental benefits carrier, only 30 to 40 percent of employees use the benefits in their dental preferred provider organization network. The National Association of Dental Plans adds that, while the amount of coverage employees receive is often low, less than 3 percent of those covered by dental benefit plans reach the current maximums.

Knowing this, Delta Dental of New Jersey implemented software — created by health care technology company Healthentic Inc. — two years ago enabling employers to benchmark and track employees’ dental benefits use and patterns. This can help them decide where changes need to be made that can lead to better oral and overall health.

‘According to the surgeon general, some 164 million work hours are lost a year due to dental problems.’

— Vince Farinella, Delta Dental

Delta Dental’s clients across the U.S. use the company’s annual “Dental Action Report”to see how many employees regularly visit the dentist, how many wait until they’re experiencing dental pain, how many have low, average and serious oral-health issues, and how many aren’t using their dental plans at all.

The report also benchmarks employee behavior against companies in the same industry of approximately the same size on state and national levels. All employee information is anonymous, and employers must have at least 100 employees to receive the complimentary reports.

“According to the surgeon general, some 164 million work hours are lost a year due to dental problems,” said Vince Farinella, vice president of strategy and product development for Delta Dental of New Jersey. “There’s so much focus today on health, wellness, employee well-being and its relationship to productivity, we felt we needed to put something together that would illustrate to a company exactly what resources are being used, what’s being neglected, how much it’s costing and what it means for employee wellness.”

Ricardo Rojas, director of compensation and benefits for Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, a Norwegian shipping company, has used the “Dental Action Report”to gauge the effectiveness of its wellness program for the past two years.

Employees in Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s U.S. offices voluntarily participate in a wellness program in which they are urged to accumulate 200 points over the course of 12 months. They can earn points by getting regular checkups, managing their oral health, eating healthy and exercising. Those who receive 200 points have the opportunity to receive a discounted employee contribution rate during open enrollment the following year.

“The report helps us with our targeting strategies,” Rojas said. “We can find out if there are different parts of our population, whether it be different parts of the country, different age groups, that aren’t taking advantage of preventive oral care or need certain procedures done. It makes sure we stay relevant and effective.”

Using the data Wallenius Wilhelmsen has created outreach programs through the company’s wellness program for at-risk populations and adjusted what it offers to meet employees’ needs.

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