Staff are hard to please. No matter how hard you try, complaints will always arise. If it’s not the photocopier, it’s the e-mail system. And if working hours aren’t a problem, holiday pay will be. So while looking after employee’s teeth may not be high on an employer’s agenda, dealing with a member of staff with toothache may be more of a headache than some people imagine.
Fortunately, dental cover is a benefit that insurers are recognising as essential to employee benefit packages. Certainly this was a motivating factor for PPP healthcare when it incorporated dental cover, from specialists Denplan, into its employee-oriented website.
With an emphasis on preventative dental care, the plan is flexible and can be tailored to the employer’s specific requirements.
Kate Rooney, Denplan press communications officer, says the website is aimed at employee benefit decision-makers. The site was launched, according to Rooney, to “spread awareness of available products”.
The product itself incorporates four levels. Key Dental Cover offers employees access to a dentist following a dental accident or emergency. It gives worldwide cover and among other benefits, the plan offers £10,000 towards dental accidents and £600 for emergency treatment per year. Essential Dental Cover adds to this by contributing towards routine examinations, hygienist appointments, dental x-rays, remedial and restorative treatment. Extensive Dental Cover is also designed to stabilise oral health by contributing towards all the above, but at a higher rate. Denplan Care is a comprehensive programme devised by a Denplan dentist to cater for all the employee’s particular dental needs.
PPP healthcare is not the only provider to utilise the internet. According to Philip Fowles, BCWA’s sales and marketing director: “Our website covers all products for the corporate market, including dental plans, and has been in existence for over 18 months.”
BCWA provides dental plans exclusively for the corporate market. “We provide insurance only, not capitation plans, meaning that BCWA groups can use any dentist they choose,” explains Fowles, who adds that BCWA will probably take a further look at its dental cover sometime this year.
According to BUPA, products offering enhanced cover are a particular favourite with groups, as ensuring employees receive treatment swiftly benefits both employer and patient. “Take-up of Classic (NHS level of cover) and Premier (private level of cover) benefits are both popular, but there is a growing trend to take up the Premier benefits,” says Hugh Risebrow, managing director of dental cover at BUPA.
He also reports a rising popularity in using BUPA’s accredited dentists. “BUPA DentalChoice Plus offers a 20 per cent enhancement for treatment carried out by a BUPA accredited dentist.”
CIGNA agrees that the efficiency and accessibility of dental cover addresses a genuine need. “Approximately 75 per cent of people in London and the South East have no access to a dentist, so it is definitely a growing market,” confirms CIGNA’s marketing manager Lynda Hardy Maskell. “A dental scheme is not high cost – it can cost as little as £10 a month. The fact that it will definitely be used makes it invaluable.”
CIGNA, which is relaunching its scheme at the British Dental Trade Association exhibition in early April, has an impressive track record when it comes to dental cover for groups. Hardy Maskell says: “For over two years CIGNA has been the preferred provider of dental cover for British Telecom’s intranet site, BT Today, which can be accessed by all of BT’s 38,000 employees.”
The increase in internet-based information shouldn’t cause alarm for a dedicated broker. Denplan’s Rooney comments: “There are a lot of opportunities for intermediaries. Over half the market is led by brokers and they can use the website for information. Alternatively, if a company is aware of dental plans for groups and requires further information, it can ask its broker to obtain it on its behalf.”
Fowles is quick to agree that the internet’s strength is its information-giving function. “I believe that PMI products are too complex to sell over the web and could give rise to OFT concerns over the sales process.”
While awareness of the dental market’s business capacity is growing among intermediaries, it still has some way to go. Now that providers are marketing fresh products, it is an ideal opportunity for brokers to tap the potential by studying the new demands of employers.
“The most popular benefits are check ups, preventative treatments and regular treatments,” explains Hardy Maskell. “There is a trend emerging where dentistry is becoming increasingly specialist and therefore consumers want more basic products that provide maintenance.”
She adds: “After 40 years of dental education, people have learned to look after their teeth a lot better, so the demand for invasive treatment is considerably less.”
So while encouraging employers to think about their employees’ oral hygiene may seem unsavoury, it provides brokers with a lucrative business avenue.
And with providers furnishing the market with innovative products, employers know their staff will have slightly less to moan about.