Dental Insurance is Going the Way of Wisdom Teeth, But Consumers Dental Needs aren’t Going Away

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Growing numbers of Coloradans are discovering that a key benefit theyÂ?ve enjoyed in the past, dental insurance, is being yanked by employers as if it were a bad tooth. The ensuing gap in overall health-care coverage can be difficult to fill, but Direct Dental Plans of America, Inc., is one of few companies helping meet this growing need. - By Kevin Adams, President Direct Dental Plans of America, Inc

Growing numbers of consumers are discovering that a key benefit they’ve enjoyed in the past, dental insurance, is being yanked by employers as if it were a bad tooth. The ensuing gap in overall health-care coverage can be difficult to fill, but the organization for which I work, Direct Dental Plans of America, Inc., is one of few companies helping meet this growing need.

In 2004, nearly half of Americans had no dental coverage, according to the National Association of Dental Plans. In large part, this is because employers, competing in an increasingly global marketplace, are looking for ways to cut costs. Premiums for dental indemnity plans rose 9 percent this year while premiums for dental health organizations rose 5 percent, according to the association. Low maximum benefits, as well as rate increases of this magnitude clearly make dental benefits a target.

As employers cease to pay dental-insurance costs, consumers face the prospect of buying coverage on their own. Employers can tell you that it’s costly, but it’s even more costly for individuals, who typically can’t get the reduced rates that groups command.

An alternative is simply going without dental insurance, but that can be far more costly than buying individual coverage. I’ve surveyed the national market and I can tell you that, for someone without insurance, a trip to the dentist can cause tremendous pain, even if plenty of Novocain is used. Many dentists charge rates at least as high as these:

• Initial cleaning, exam and fluoride treatment: $135

• Bitewing X-rays (two): $47

• Root canal (anterior): $659

• Surface perm filling (one): $118

There is yet another alternative—discounting—and it carries great promise for the individual, employers and the dentist.

The company founded, Direct Dental Plans of America, Inc. is one of a growing number of organizations that offer discounting. We aren’t insurers; rather, we negotiate reduced fees with large numbers of dentists across a state or region. Nationwide, more than 88,000 dentists participate in our network. We then charge consumers a membership fee—our lowest-cost plan costs $9.80 a month—for access to the network and its discounts.

Dentists like this model, because it provides them large numbers of patients, without adding to their paperwork burden. On the contrary, because we aren’t insurers, we don’t require that dentists seek approvals, fill out forms and wait for payments—or, for that matter, denials—each time they provide a service. This saves dentists time and money, enabling them to keep their fees low.

In fact, our dentists’ fees are substantially below the fees to which I alluded earlier. Our members pay 28 to 50 percent less.

Direct Dental Plans of America also gives member access to specialists such as orthodontists, oral surgeons, periodontists, endodontists and pedodontists at 20 to 25 percent savings. Members also receive discounts on cosmetic dentistry and implants. The only exception is any orthodontic work that was in progress prior to joining Direct Dental Plans of America.

As for employers: We’re finding that many are willing to subsidize their employees’ monthly membership fee. For employers who don’t want to pay themselves, there is a voluntary option available at no cost to the employer. Payroll deduction procedures can also be implemented. As a result, enrollments in these type of plans continue to rise. In fact, according to the 2001 National Association of Dental Plans Enrollment Growth Survey enrollment in discounting plans increased 126 percent and we have seen steady growth each year.

To learn how we can make you smile again, visit us on the Web at http://www.directdentalplan.com or call 1-800-377-2924.

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Tammy Funk
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