More than one-third of adults surveyed for the Surgeon General’s study on oral health (2000) had not visited a dentist in the past 12 months. Laurence R. Weissbrot, FSA, MAAA, director of actuarial and underwriting at Northeast Delta Dental in Concord, N.H., says that “75 percent or more of the people who have dental coverage see their dentists on a regular basis. Fewer than 50 percent of people without dental coverage do so.”
Unfortunately, oral health conditions can progress rapidly without treatment. Most adults show signs of periodontal or gingival (gum) diseases, with about 14 percent of those aged 45 to 54 having “severe” periodontal disease.
The Surgeon General’s report points out that oral health is integral to general health. “You cannot be healthy without oral health…. Oral diseases are progressive and cumulative and become more complex over time. They can affect our ability to eat, the foods we choose, how we look, and the way we communicate. These diseases can affect economic productivity and compromise our ability to work at home, at school, or on the job.”
Employees who drop their employer-based coverage will be able to buy standalone dental insurance on an individual basis on the Health Insurance Exchanges. However, Weissbrot points out that individuals buying coverage on the insurance exchanges will lack the double tax advantages employer-provided benefits enjoy: employers can deduct premiums as a business expense, and employees do not have to report their value as income.
Many employers, even some smaller employers, self-insure dental benefits. Even when they add the cost of using a third-party administrator to manage their plans, some employers may save money on dental benefits this way. Although standalone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) will not meet the ACA’s “no annual limit” requirement, a dental HRA might fall under the “excepted health plan” exemption from ACA requirements. Please contact us to discuss how your organization can provide valuable dental benefits to your employees at no cost to the employer with voluntary dental plans.
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