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Permanent link  Employees continuing to use their dental benefits hold, despite recession

07/06/2009

Crain's Communications has posted an article on how dental benefits are faring in the economy. The article cites a survey conducted by CDS last fall that found 22 percent of Chicagoans had a family member with an untreated dental issue and almost half were without insurance.

In addition, the American Dental Association reports that its survey of members has found "dentists' decreased incomes and gross billings decreased in the fourth quarter of 2008 vs. the third quarter." First-quarter 2009 statistics do show "a small improvement," the news is still bad, said Wayne Wendling, managing VP of the ADA's Health Policy Resource Center, to ADA News.

However, employers and employment consultants are saying that dental benefits coverage--and employees' use of the benefit is holding steady.

"While we hear from dentists that the amount of work being done is less than it was last year, our claim activity does not show that,'' said Jon Seltenheim, senior vp of customer service operations at dental insurer United Concordia Cos. Inc. in Harrisburg, Pa.

"The dentists that I speak with are saying they are having fewer requests for cosmetic procedures and in some cases are seeing openings in their hygiene schedules, which they rarely see, but it's too early to have any strong conclusions. Hopefully, we'll see some clarity in the middle part of the third quarter," Mr. Seltenheim said.
One insurer tells reporter Louise Kertesz that fear of layoffs may be spiking demand for preventative dental services:
Chris Swanker, VP of group dental and vision for New York-based Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, said the industry's emphasis on preventive services, plan designs that stretch benefits-including allowing annual maximums to roll over-and fears of layoffs are "driving a fairly substantial increase in utilization...."

Mr. Hirschberg said there has been "some trail-off'' in use of higher-cost services such as orthodontia, which is covered at 50% up to a certain maximum. "There's a slowdown, not that it fell off the ledge," he said.
Read the full article. Related: the ADA will be hosting its annual National Dental Benefits Conference in August in Chicago. Attendance for members is free.

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