January 1, 2008

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Promoting Total Fitness

Choices Abound Even When it Comes to Your Smile

Carolyn Campbell

January 1, 2008

In the world of insurance, options definitely abound. But among those choices, one common thread remains true: don’t be caught without it. The same holds true of dental plans, which can reduce costs over the long term and increaese overall health. Sondra Swensen, marketing manager for Dental Select, the largest dental benefits provider in Utah, suggests that business owners compare several plans when choosing a dental plan for their employees. “They can ask carriers for reports that include fee schedules for both premiums and co-pays in order to consider the total cost of the plan, which includes both premium and out of pocket expenses,” says Swensen. She advises business owners to evaluate provider quality by asking about qualifications, such as board certification, which are required for a provider to be part of a network. “They can also ask which programs are in place to keep the quality of that standard,” says Swensen. To accurately compare the number of contracted providers within a local area, Swensen advises determining whether the plan counts the number of individual dentists or the number of dental office locations, which may include more than one dentist. “Business owners should determine whether the provider network includes a large network of contracted providers in their local area.” To consider the ease of administration of a particular plan, business owners can inquire how fast claims are paid and how many customer service personnel are available, Swensen suggests. They can even ask such detail as how long the average phone hold time is on customer service. Brent Williams CEO and president of Dental Select, explains that dental plans are valuable to business owners, because dental benefits are linked to higher job commitment on the part of employees. “Dental insurance is the most frequently-purchased voluntary benefit. Employees consider a dental health plan to be a practical and valuable benefit,” he says. “The majority of employees without an employer-sponsored dental plans want dental insurance.” Williams adds that while some people think a dental checkup is like standing in line at the bank –a waste of time – others realize that even when their teeth aren’t bothering them, a visit to the dentist is still important. He explains that studies now support the direct correlation between dental health and overall health. “The mouth is connected to the body, and is the only place where we constantly grow bacteria 24-7.” He adds that 99 percent of Americans suffer from tooth decay by age 45, and more than 75 percent of the U.S. population over age 35 eventually suffers from some type of gum or periodontal disease. Patients with periodontal disease have one and a half to two times greater risk of having fatal cardiovascular disease and a 1.5 times greater risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to deliver a baby that is premature or of low birth weight. “You cannot have an organ transplant without a doctor signing off that you do not have an infection in your mouth,” Swensen adds. Williams explains that research has proven that early periodontal treatment reduces overall medical costs by 9 percent in diabetes, 16 percent in coronary artery disease and 11 percent in strokes. Oral health issues also account for 20.5 million annual work days lost annually. “These costs could be avoided by good oral health, a direct result of good dental plan coverage,” says Williams. In addition to contributing to the health of employees, dental benefits are also valuable in contributing to the financial health of society by reducing future dental costs by 300 percent. Williams explains that dental benefits differ from medical benefits in that dental insurance is low cost with high frequency utilization, while medical insurance is high cost with low frequency utilization. “Dental insurance is the only insurance that people purchase knowing they are going to use it,” says Swensen. In the end, she add, dental health can affect so many aspects of a person’s life that it not worth simply overlooking it. “Oral health affects a person’s sense of well-being and ability to get a job. A person with severe oral problems is less likely to be hired in the workplace.” Find it on the Web To evaluate the reputation and stability of the dental carrier offering a plan you choose, consider consulting the A. M. Best Company Website, ambest.com. This Website issues reports and in-depth financial strength ratings about insurance organizations.
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