In today’s competitive marketplace, most businesses wish they could provide current and potential employees with comprehensive dental care benefits. “Dental plans rank as the third most important employee benefit, just behind health and retirement.”18 According to Cathy Smithwick, dental practice leader at Mercer Consulting, dental coverage is the “visible benefit because on average 75% of employees will use a good dental plan.”19
Dental benefits not only increase employee satisfaction and morale, but they can also cut down the hours lost due to dental issues. According to Oral Health in America, “employed adults lost more than 164 million hours of work each year due to dental disease or dental visits.”10
A recent study from NADP shows that only 56% of the U.S. population has dental insurance dentist.11 Therefore, inexpensive dental care solutions are highly coveted by both employers and employees. “To satisfy employee demand, more employers added dental to the benefits menu in recent years. One of the final holdouts, the federal government, will offer dental benefits to employees in 2006.”20
“Seven out of ten employers (71%) offer dental benefits, often using them as the differentiating factor in recruiting and retaining employees.”18 The research shows that the larger a business is, the more likely they are to offer dental benefits. “Among firms with at least 10 employees, 56% offered dental coverage in 2003. Just one year later, that figure leaped to 67%, according to an annual survey of employer-sponsored health plans by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. Dental offerings among large employers (500 employers and up) jumped from 90% to 96% of firms.”20
Unfortunately, many businesses cannot afford to pay all or part of their employees’ dental benefits. “Mercer data show dental costs averaged $577 for all employers in employers in 2003 and edged up to $598 in 2004, a 3.6% increase. Large employers, meanwhile, saw a 5.4% increase from $574 to $605.”20 According to Evelyn Ireland, Executive Director of NADP, “employers aren’t dropping dental coverage, but they’re squeezing the amount of money they’re contributing to it.”20 So as the cost of providing dental benefits to their employees continues to rise, businesses are passing these price hikes on to employees. “The most obvious way for employers to control dental costs … is to make employees pay more.”20
Kirk Rothrock, CEO of CompBenefits, believes that many businesses are shifting the cost of dental benefits to their employees.20 “The biggest trend we’ve seen over the last three or four years is the move from employer-paid benefits to voluntary benefits,” he says. “Employers are saying, ‘I can no longer afford to pay your dental benefits.’”20 The State of the Dental Benefits Market, 2005 confirms that “over 70% of the population is paying at least a portion of their dental premiums” and about 25% are paying for their entire dental premium.16
Many businesses are turning to discount dental plans, an affordable alternative to dental insurance, to defray the costs of providing their employees with valuable dental benefits. Discount dental plans present flexible, affordable dental benefits that are easy to implement and practically effortless to manage. They provide businesses with an ideal way complement their existing benefits and offer a more balanced benefits package. Many businesses are using discount dental plans to offer dental benefits to the people that are rarely covered by traditional dental insurance, including retirees, part-timers, seasonal workers and uninsured dependants.