Most of my patients who have dental cover, and that has never been a large proportion of my patient base, are covered on some form of an employer corporate plan rather than an individual one. I have never noted any great differences in rebate levels. On the whole the amounts, that people realistically have been able to claim as a proportion of reasonable private dental costs seems to have been quite low . One significant exclusion has been implants, which have been part of commonly accepted general dentistry for decades. Sometimes there have been issues with pre-existing conditions. The trouble with dentistry is that much of it, with the exception of accidents, can be considered to relate to some form of pre-existing condition.
When patients have asked me, as has happened many times, whether I would recommend that they takeout individual private dental cover, I always say I am not qualified to give advice. However, it seemed to me that their rebates would rarely exceed their premiums!
I asked Paul Lewis from Get Dental Plans (a health insurance adviser) to comment on these sentiments and tell us what has changed in this market. We asked him some specific questions.
Q. What is the current status of the dental insurance market in the UK?
A. At the moment there is an increase of top providers like BUPA and Simply Health introducing new comprehensive dental plans, especially for companies, as they see dental cover being a fast growing benefit for companies to offer their staff. In the USA 85% have dental cover where as in the UK only 11% do, which means that there is a lot of growth potential. As a result in the increase of company plans and provider competition, there are some very comprehensive and well-priced policies.
Q. Obviously, with private dentistry once again about to increase dramatically here, there is bound to be greater demand for insurance. But, it has to be worthwhile. Do you feel that it is?
A. I agree that insurance has to be worthwhile, but like any insurance you only see the real benefit when you need to make a claim, and receive reimbursement. The main changes over the last few years are that the maintenance cover, which is made up of check-ups, X-rays and hygienist fees are over 90% of the premium cost, leaving £1000’s for treatment and accident cover.
Q. Traditionally, overseas particularly in the USA, corporate dental cover is seen as an essential and highly valued benefit within companies as compared to the UK. Is that changing?
A. Yes, it is gradually changing but I feel it is up to the dentists to be aware of what is out there, and advise their patients accordingly on who to go to for dental cover advice. The main reason why Get Dental Plans Ltd started, was that we realised there was a gap in the market for a specialist company to impartially advise individuals and companies on dental cover.
Q. Consequently, are any insurance companies providing new, more appealing products either for the corporate or individual market?
A. Like all growing markets there are changes every month, but as mentioned there are some good value, and comprehensive dental plans for both individuals and companies. Providers such as BUPA, NDP, Cigna and Simply Health all provide various comprehensive dental plans that will support most requirements, including implants.
Q. It seems, at this stage, that it’s largely on the corporate level that the biggest changes are occurring. How small a company can be to benefit from such products?
A. That is correct, the corporate plans are the strongest offering cover for pre-existing conditions. The requirement for a small company to benefit from these corporate products, start from as little as two members making it possible for them to also benefit.
Q. I am certainly not ‘in the business of advising or promoting’ dental insurance. How could we enable and assist our patients in accessing this information accurately and potentially benefiting from it?
A. As you quite rightly mentioned you are not an insurance adviser, and you are not allowed to advise. There is no reason why you shouldn’t suggest to your patients, that in order to make dentistry affordable and look after their oral health, it makes sense to have a comprehensive dental plan. If your patients contact Get Dental Plans Ltd we can advise them on suitable plans which are available for both companies and individuals.
This is becoming a very important and significant issue for the provision of dentistry in the UK in the future and most UK companies are having to seriously consider the offer of dental health cover as an essential and highly valued benefit to their employees. People are living much longer and now expect to keep their teeth for life. This is placing an unsustainable burden on an ailing NHS and so private dentistry is bound to become a more and more essential option to adequately fulfill this requirement.