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This is in response to Is Dental Insurance a Valuable Benefit?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011
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I read with interest Carol Harnett's article, "Is Dental Insurance a Valuable Benefit?" Based on the overall content of her piece, the conclusion appears to be a clear "Yes." She made some good points about the many benefits employees receive from dental coverage, including a greater likelihood that they will receive preventive treatments and potential medical cost savings.

And, our research confirms her point about dental coverage being one of the most desired employee benefits. So, employers wanting to attract and retain top talent will no-doubt continue to offer these valuable benefits.

In regard to her own dental plan, I'm happy her excellent oral health has left her with minimal annual needs. Although I am sorry that this has led to a decision to forego dental benefits next year based on her risk/benefit/cost calculations. 

In my own household when I calculate the value of my insurance each year whether it is for medical, dental , or even house and car, if I have no or minimal claims it doesn't appear like "the math" has worked in my favor. The fact is, though, that the math usually does work in favor of having insurance, including our dental benefits.

According to national surveys, private dental insurance, particularly for families with dependents, is a valuable benefit.

For example, according to the 2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the most complete source of data on the subject, for kids aged 2-19 from families in an income bracket at or above 200% of the federal poverty level, the average dental care expenditure was $652. For kids aged 12-19, the average expenditure was $880.

So, a family with two teenagers would be looking at more than $1,700 in dental costs before the parents even got so much as a cleaning.

Meanwhile, the average family premium in an employer-sponsored DPPO plan (including ortho) was less than $1,200. Put another way, the annual dental premium for a family was about the cost of the monthly medical premium.

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In addition, the same national survey showed that for children under age 19, fifty-five percent of those with private dental insurance saw a dentist for an annual exam versus only 36 percent of children without insurance.

The results are almost the same for adults.

So having dental benefits is a powerful incentive for children and adults to seek and receive the benefit of regular professional dental care.

While I understand where Carol is coming from on her cost-benefit analysis, I hope and trust HR professionals will continue to see the value of offering dental benefits to their employees both from a recruitment/retention perspective and an overall health perspective.

I also trust that individuals and families will continue to see the benefit of dental coverage as they access cost-saving preventive services while insuring against unanticipated, costly treatments.

Chris Pyle

Director, State Government and Public Relations 
Delta Dental Plans Association 

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