Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why Good Dental Coverage Saves Companies Money on Employee Health Claims

UnitedHealthcare conducted a study which found that by improving dental health of people with chronic medical conditions (cardiovascular disease, diabetes and asthma, in particular), employers can save more than $1000 per person, per year on their medical costs. The $1000 savings is above and beyond the cost of the dental coverage. This is good news for companies looking to lower the amount of money they pay out on their employee's health costs, especially when those companies integrate medical benefits with dental benefits, as well as providing wellness support programs to workers.

This study showed that people with the above-mentioned chronic medical conditions who received appropriate dental care (i.e. exams, x-rays, cleanings as well as treatment of gum disease) had a net medical/dental claim cost that was on average $1038 lower than those who were chronically ill but who didn't receive adequate dental care. Benefit savings was greatest among diabetics who lowered their claim costs an average of $1279 per year.

In addition, the study also revealed the following relationship between an integrated (i.e. medical + dental) approach to healthcare coverage;

  • Total average medical costs were lower across all chronic conditions for people who received periodontal treatment or cleanings compared to those who did not receive such services, even after accounting for the costs of additional dental treatments.
  • People with chronic conditions who received regular cleanings (at least three times during the three years) had the lowest health care costs of any other dental treatment group (i.e. infrequent cleanings, no cleanings).
  • The savings were also significant for people who received regular dental care, but were not compliant with the recommended care for their chronic medical condition. Among the group receiving dental care, annual average medical costs were $2320 lower than those not receiving dental care, with net savings of $1829 after accounting for the cost of the dental care.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with chronic medical conditions account for over 75% of health care costs in the United States, which is probably why an increasing number of employers are developing strategies to improve the health of employees with these conditions.
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