The Ancillary Portfolio

The Simplicity Of Dental and Vision Insurance

Keeping Molehills From Becoming Mountains

by Bob Ruff

Mr. Ruff is senior vice president of Growth Solutions. He is responsible for the development and execution of key growth initiatives for Aflac U.S., including product development, enrollment, business development and market development.

It is the age-old advice of weary parents everywhere: Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. In most situations, refusing to sweat the small stuff helps people free themselves to focus on what matters most. But when it comes to health, the converse can be true: Taking care of the small things can help prevent larger problems.

This is particularly true for the eyes and mouth. Mayo Clinic research links the development of seemingly minor oral and visual health problems such as gum disease or blurred vision to more serious illnesses such as diabetes.1, 2 These findings reinforce the importance of frequent checkups, but too many Americans fall short of the recommended cadence of appointments.

According to the 2019-2020 Aflac WorkForces Report, nearly 6 out of 10 employees (58%) say understanding what insurance or benefits they need is somewhat to very stressful.3 Thankfully, brokers have an opportunity to bridge the gap between oral and ocular health and individuals’ willingness to pursue care to see the importance of vision and dental coverage.

Examine The Bigger Picture

A 2019 study by the World Health Organization estimates that at least 1 billion people globally have a vision impairment that either could have been prevented or is yet to be addressed.4 For mouth health, the numbers are even more stark: The number of people with untreated oral conditions is estimated to be roughly 3.5 billion.5

For many, these untreated conditions are minor occurrences that should be attended to, but scarcely turn into something larger. But for others, the failure to recognize oral and vision issues could mean missing an early indicator of a much bigger problem.

Employers can help employees have the best chance of avoiding that escalation by offering dental and vision coverage in addition to health insurance. These policies typically cover most or all of the cost of annual checkups and are often available at adjustable levels, allowing policyholders to fit their policies to their needs. Plus, the demand is there: Employees say dental and vision plans are most essential to their benefits packages, second only to health insurance.3

All of this helps keep employees healthy, and healthier employees are typically happier employees. Plus, regular checkups are likely to help prevent workers’ minor health issues from spiraling into lengthier absences from work.

Take A Bite Out Of Medical Costs

According to a 2019 study by the Health Policy Institute, 20% of working age adults needed dental care within the past year but did not receive it.6 And for much of that group, financial reasons were listed as a significant part of why they could not access their required care.

The cost of medical care can be overwhelming at times, but dental and vision coverage can help lighten that financial load. That makes them crucial players in helping Americans get to the doctor as often as they should without breaking the bank. Yet, for as useful as these policies are in encouraging regular checkups, they are perhaps even more valuable for unexpected, costly events.

Some life events are unpredictable. Though nobody wants to imagine themselves or a dependent incurring a major injury, it does happen. Accidents can very easily impact eyes and teeth — often breaking open the floodgates of exorbitant medical expenses. With that possibility in mind, brokers may want to recommend that their clients pair supplemental accident insurance with vision and dental offerings to maximize employees’ protection from unforeseeable incidents.

One less considered boon for clients’ benefits packages is supplemental dental and vision insurance, which does not have a network requirement. Supplemental coverage pays policyholders cash directly, unless otherwise assigned...

The combined strength of these policies is appealing to both employers and employees, ensuring that injured workers can get back to work as soon as possible without the traveling rain cloud of overwhelming medical costs.

Consider Unseen Advantages

Beyond the straightforward benefits of dental and vision insurance, there can be a boon to businesses, as well, for offering coverage.

Untreated vision issues can put a company at risk. From safety to quality and productivity, impaired employees pose a risk to the business, others around them and themselves. This is true of both the quintessential assembly line — where one errant mistake could set the entire process awry — to the office workplace, where poor vision could lead to difficulty interacting efficiently with technology. This realization is a compelling argument in favor of vision insurance, but it could also apply to dental care. Could anyone be expected to perform at peak levels while enduring a constant toothache?

One less considered boon for clients’ benefits packages is supplemental dental and vision insurance, which does not have a network requirement. Supplemental coverage pays policyholders cash directly, unless otherwise assigned, so the insured can use that money however they want. And it can be offered to employees at little to no cost to employers. This flexibility and convenience make supplemental coverage a strong point of interest for brokers to discuss with employers as they prepare insurance options for the coming year.

Nip Medical Issues In The Bud

As we approach this fall’s open enrollment season, perhaps it is an appropriate time to impress upon clients the value of including dental and vision insurance, as well as supplemental coverage, to employees’ benefits packages.
As employees feel more confident in the financial help their insurance provides for preventative and emergency care alike, brokers can feel confident they have done all they can to help people turn their medical and financial molehills not into a mountain, but into rubble.

 

1 “Oral Health: A Window to your Overall Health.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed Feb. 12, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475.
2 “Diabetic Retinopathy.” Mayo Clinic. Accessed Feb. 12, 2020. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-retinopathy/symptoms-causes/syc-20371611.
3 The 2019-2020 Aflac WorkForces Report is the ninth annual study examining benefits trends and attitudes. The surveys, conducted by Kantar, captured responses from 1,200 employers and 2,000 employees across the United States in various industries. Learn more at Aflac.com/AWR.
4 “World Report on Vision.” World Health Organization. Accessed Feb. 12, 2020. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/documents/publications/world-report-on-vision-accessible-executive-summary.pdf.
5 “Global, Regional, and National Prevalence, Incidence, and Disability-Adjusted Life Years for Oral Conditions for 195 Countries, 1990–2015: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors.” The 2016 Global Burden of Disease Study. Accessed Feb. 12, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5912207/.
6 “Main Barriers to Getting Needed Dental Care All Relate to Affordability.” The Health Policy Institute. Accessed Feb. 12, 2020. http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science and Research/HPI/Files/HPIBrief_0419_1.pdf.
Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.
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