The rough economy has impacted countless of Americans over the past few years and have forced individuals to reevaluate their relationships with money. The results vary from industry to industry; coupon usage is up in retail, smaller homes are all the rage in the real estate industry and restaurants are offering bargain meal bundles to fill their empty tables. The reality is also impacting the dental care industry in a number of surprising ways.
Prior to the economic disorder, dental insurance was hugely popular, doctors were more popular than dentists and the Tooth Fairy was one generous pixie. Now, the dental industry (along with countless others) has been turned on its heels and the trends of yesterday have become permanently anchored in the past.
Dental Insurance, Yesterday's News
Once upon a time, dental insurance was a valuable benefit provided by employers to their workers. According to a 1989 study, dental care coverage was believed to be the greatest indicator dentist visits as those with the coverage had the ability to visit the dentist more frequently of (www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_183.pdf). The economy has changed both those norms.
According to Fidelity Investments' Consulting Services, employee, health coverage benefits cost employers approximately $5,000 to $15,000 per employee annually. Industry insiders suggest that dental care only comprises a 4 percent share of those costs. Depending on the policy, that can cost an employer $200 to $600 for dental care coverage per staff members and employers no longer are interested in paying those bills.
Research has indicated that the economic climate has forced employers to trim their budgets in order to maintain or increase their profit margins, sources indicate that 25 percent of companies surveyed had plan to pass the cost burden onto their hires (Society for Human Resource Management). Other options include 12.7 percent of companies no longer offering dental insurance as a perk (http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-04-06-employers-cut-worker-benefits_N.htm).
Additional research into the topic has shown that for the typical consumer, paying for dental insurance out of pocket no longer makes economic sense, delivering the final blow to the dental insurance industry. Website, WorldDental.com recently analyzed the payment versus benefits of the average dental policy and according to their findings "...a typical dental policy will offer an annual maximum benefit of $1,350, it will offer 100% coverage for preventative care and diagnosis, 80% for maintenance and cleanings, 50% for basic restorative care (like fillings), 50% for oral surgery (like extractions) and root canal treatments, and 0% for cosmetic dentistry procedures," (http://worldental.org/dental-insurance/dental-insurance-worth-money/5012/). The result, hundreds of dollars of additional expenses on top of the coverage premiums plus long wait times to get the approval for the necessary dental treatments.