The forced delay in routine and elective dental, ortho and vision care caused by several months of COVID-19 lockdown was much more than an inconvenience for your employees. In many cases, the severity of unaddressed dental and vision problems has increased during that time, making the treatment needed now more extensive and expensive.
If your employees have dental insurance, chances are a routine checkup and cleaning is mostly or completely covered. But if putting off care during the lockdown allowed small problems to get bigger, they could be looking at a significant and unanticipated outlay of cash. What was a routine cavity might now require a crown, which can cost more than $1,000 and which many standard dental insurance policies cover at 50%.1 With one in 20 adults aged 20-64 suffering from moderate or severe periodontal disease, there’s a good chance some of your employees did not receive the timely care they needed to prevent these more costly procedures.2
There’s another way COVID-19 has made paying for dental and vision care a bigger burden. Families with one or more children will often attempt to space out appointments over time so that the out-of-pocket costs fit within their budgets. Now, with dental, ortho and vision appointments “stacked up” and overdue, many families might find they have to overextend themselves financially or continue delaying care until they can afford it.
In the case of vision insurance and orthodontia, a delay in care might not have ramifications quite so drastic, unless an employee or family member suffers from cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy or macular degeneration or the delay has caused an ortho patient to be “overcorrected,” which could extend the duration and expense of treatment. But here again, families with children might find themselves burdened with “stacked up” needs for eye glasses and contact lenses, and with ortho bills for broken brackets or dislodged wires at the same time they’re dealing with cavities.
We’ve concentrated to this point on the cost to employees. But there’s a cost to companies and organizations as well. Even before COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the United States economy was losing more than $45 billion a year in productivity due to oral diseases alone.3 The increase in the number and severity of procedures caused by this year’s delay in basic care is almost certain to damage productivity further—and the damage will only get worse if patients are forced to delay care for budgetary reasons.
There’s also the matter of controlling your company’s healthcare costs. As we now understand, inadequate dental care can lead to serious inflammation throughout the body, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes and increase the cost of your company’s insurance plan. There’s also evidence to suggest that the inflammation caused by dental issues might make someone more vulnerable to COVID-19 itself.4
What can you do to help? If you offer a Dental Reimbursement Account (DRA), Ortho Reimbursement Account (ORA) or Vision Reimbursement Account (VRA), it’s a good time to remind employees that they’re available and perfectly suited for the new normal. If you don’t, adding one or all of them to your benefits offerings now can be a great way to diminish the impact of the care delays for both your employees and your company.
All three accounts work in basically the same way. Your company contributes a set amount for employees to apply to eligible dental, ortho or vision expenses, including coinsurance and copays, orthodontia, eyewear, etc. You determine the extent of coverage. The employee must access the available funds within the plan year or the funds revert back to the company. The accounts can be offered as a supplement to existing insurance or as a stand-alone if no insurance coverage is offered.
These accounts are especially attractive because they are tax-free for employees and tax deductible for your company. If you have a high-deductible dental insurance plan or are thinking of switching to one, a DRA can help ease the impact of that additional out-of-pocket expense. And since the availability of these funds generally means employees get the care they need before their health is seriously impacted, they can help keep your organization’s health care expenditures under control. Those are all benefits that will continue paying off once the immediate hardships caused by delayed dental and vision care are things of the past.
Editor’s Note: TASC offers a Dental Reimbursement Account (DRA), Ortho Reimbursement Account (ORA) or Vision Reimbursement Account (VRA) from more than 50 benefit offerings that can be configured into custom plans that meet employee needs – where they are in life.
- “Is Dental Insurance Worth It?” Money Under Thirty, June 2020: https://www.moneyunder30.com/is-dental-insurance-worth-it
- “The Challenges of Pandemic Dental Care,” New York Times, June 8, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/well/live/dental-care-dentistry-teeth-coronavirus.html
- “The high cost of oral diseases,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 2020: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/programs-impact/pop/oral-disease.htm
- “The Challenges of Pandemic Dental Care”, New York Times, June 8, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/well/live/dental-care-dentistry-teeth-coronavirus.html