Spending on dental-related expenses has risen significantly over the past two decades, jumping from $2.3 billion in 1996 up to $7.9 billion in 2016. In fact, dental benefits accounted for 24 per cent of the total spent on extended health services by group or individual insurance plans according to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s most recent data. Benefits Canada recently took a closer look at the driving factors behind rising dental costs, featuring insights from our President, Rob Crowder.
Why Dental Costs Are Rising
There are two main reasons why dental expenses are steadily increasing:
Fee Guides: Each province’s dental association issues a new fee guide annually that outlines the recommended cost of various procedures and treatments. The prices are determined by a third-party economist and take into account overhead costs, types of procedures performed, and various economic factors. In 2018, dental fees increased between 1.5 and 3.5 per cent across Canada—with the exception of Alberta, where the dental association has reinstated its first fee guide since 1997 to combat runaway costs.
Increased Claims: Many employers have seen increased usage of dental benefits among employees, resulting in higher premiums paid to the insurer. While it’s good news that people are taking better care of their teeth, there’s another factor at play. Dentists are entrepreneurs, and are better than ever at getting patients to make full use of their benefits. “Dental offices are becoming significantly smarter and more sophisticated when it comes to digital client management and getting people back in the chair. The whole process is easier — reminders, booking appointments and the payment process,” says Rob.
Smart Benefits Plan Design and Education Are the Answer
Careful plan design and employee education are the best ways to discourage misuse and encourage smart shopping behaviour by plan members.
Introducing a healthcare spending account is one way to encourage employees to shop around for the best price on dental services. “If I give you $1,200 in an HCSA, you’re going to spend it in the wisest way you can. It immediately puts the onus on the patient/member,” Rob says.
Educating employees is another strategy to ensure benefits plans are being used as efficiently as possible. Topics might focus on what their dental coverage includes, how to use their plans, and how overuse and misuse can increase costs for all parties.
Check out the full article at Benefits Canada to learn more about dealing with rising dental costs.
The Benefits Trust helps employers build custom benefits plans that are clear, flexible, and transparent. Contact us today.
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