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More Employers Than Ever Before Are Offering Dental Coverage, Study Shows

More employers are offering separate dental plans than ever before, a major study shows.

The National Association of Dental (NADP) Plans 2011 Group Purchaser Behavior Study also shows that more than 80% of all companies surveyed are likely to invest in – or continue offering – health benefits rather than pay a $2,000 penalty to the federal government when the Affordable Care Act is implemented in 2014.

How Employers Currently Perceive Dental Benefits

Companies offering dental benefits to employees have increased significantly compared with the number in NADP’s previous surveys in 2005 and 2008. Increases in the percentage of employers offering dental benefits are noted in every geographic region and in all size categories – most notably with companies with 25 to 100 employees.

Companies with dental benefits showed an increase in dental PPO products and declines in dental HMO, traditional indemnity plans and discount dental plans. Since 2008, employers are also asking employees to contribute more to their own dental coverage.

Additional key findings include these:

  • Dental coverage is purchased as a separate policy, most often from a stand-alone carrier (59%), while declining are dental policies purchased in a package from a medical carrier and its dental affiliate, subsidiary or partner.
  • In selecting a new carrier for dental coverage, cost is the most important factor.
  • The most important reasons for companies to consider offering dental benefits are:
  • Employee requests
  • The effect of dental health on overall health
  • Affordability
  • Most employers (96%) believe dental benefits are an “essential” or a “differentiating” factor in the recruitment and retention of employees, consistent with data from 2008.

How Employers Perceive Dental Benefits under Healthcare Reform

The ACA includes “pediatric oral services” as part of the Essential Health Benefits Package to be offered in the small-group and individual market. However, according to the study, separate dental and vision benefits will continue to be purchased outside of the Exchange by 69% of all companies. While many employers are uncertain, in employer groups of 100 or less (those initially eligible to use Exchanges), 21% are not likely to continue dental coverage outside of Exchanges. Additionally, an estimated 40% of companies with 100 employees or less indicate they are likely to purchase health benefits through the Exchange.

“To deliver on the promise made by President Obama and congressional leaders that Americans can keep their coverage and doctors, consumers with dental benefits need the option they have today to purchase medical which does not duplicate the dental coverage they already have,” said NADP Executive Director Evelyn F. Ireland.

“Regulators must clarify that dental policies consumers have now will be accepted by Exchanges to meet ACA requirements for children,” she said. “They should also clarify that health plans can offer medical coverage without dental both inside and outside the Exchanges. Without these clarifications, dental coverage will be disrupted for 1.65 million small businesses providing dental policies to 43.7 million employees, including 22.9 million children.”


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