The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March of 2010, was developed to reform the nation’s healthcare system and improve access to healthcare for Americans. Portions of the law have already been implemented, while others will phase in over the next few years. As this is occurring, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies are writing rules to govern the law’s implementation, and state policymakers are determining their next steps.
Much attention has been focused on the law’s requirement that nearly all Americans have health insurance by 2014. At that time, businesses with more than 50 employees must provide health insurance or face penalties and income-based subsidies will be available to help individuals pay for insurance. To encourage small businesses to offer employees health coverage as soon as possible, the law already provides tax credits for doing so.
A centerpiece of the law is its requirement that health insurance exchanges be created and available beginning in 2014. Small businesses and individuals will be able to purchase health coverage through these exchanges, if they wish to do so, to meet the coverage requirements of the law.
In addition to mandatory health insurance, the law also requires that children’s dental coverage be provided. This requirement is a direct reflection of the importance of oral health and its role as a critical component in an individual’s overall health.
Without a doubt, healthcare reform has introduced new variables into the employee health benefits marketplace. However, one thing has not changed. Oral health is a critical part of overall health, and dental insurance is essential to helping employees get access to affordable care.
Healthy employees are important to the success of any organization, and scientific evidence about the role oral health can play in early detection and disease management is increasing. Brokers can play an important role by helping clients understand how oral health relates to overall health and how conditions in the mouth can alert dentists to major health problems in their earliest stages.
According to the U. S. Surgeon General, many systemic diseases manifest themselves in the mouth, including serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, the onset of a stroke or complications with pregnancy. During oral exams, dentists can be among the first healthcare providers to observe these conditions and advise their patients to seek the appropriate medical treatment.
While businesses with 100 or fewer employees will be able to purchase benefits through the new health insurance exchanges in 2014, there is no reason to wait to purchase dental insurance. Doing so will only delay the immediate value that cost-effective, affordable dental plans can provide to businesses and employees today.
By improving health, dental insurance can increase employee productivity and lower absenteeism. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report on oral health in the U.S., “Employed adults lose more than 164 million hours of work each year due to dental disease or dental visits.”1
Without dental insurance, people may postpone appointments for routine dental cleanings and other preventive care. This neglect can lead to serious dental issues that are more costly to treat and may even require a visit to the emergency room. Preventive dental care keeps employees working by helping them avoid serious dental or other health-related issues.
Benefits as recruitment/retention tools
Dental benefits are highly desired by employees. Dental insurance consistently ranks as the most important benefit after medical coverage. Brokers can remind employers that when employees are offered some type of dental plan, they will be more satisfied with their overall compensation and benefits package – and less likely to seek other employment opportunities.
Voluntary as an option
Is your client still unsure about offering dental insurance? If so, voluntary benefit options allow employers to sponsor a plan without assuming any financial liability or administrative burden.
As a broker, you can analyze their situation and use your knowledge and industry experiences to help your clients choose which options best suit their needs. By providing examples of how other companies have handled their plans effectively in similar situations, you can do a valuable service for your clients that will resonate for years to come.
Don’t forget about individual plans
If employers are concerned about contracts or other aspects related to voluntary benefits, brokers can also advise them about individual offerings. Some insurance companies today offer individual dental plans that employers can endorse and make available to current and even retired employees without any obligation. These plans can provide simple, affordable coverage for individuals and their family members who may not qualify for employer-paid group plans.
While healthcare reform is no doubt changing the benefits landscape in various ways, much is still the same with respect to dental insurance. For brokers, there has never been a better time to encourage clients to add coverage and immediately reap the benefits of what a quality dental plan can provide.