Insider Update

Broker blog from Delta Dental

What drives buyers of individual Delta Dental plans?

As you’re probably well aware, attracting new clients and pinpointing their needs can be challenging. To help you, Delta Dental recently explored the characteristics of people who buy individual dental plans.

PPO versus DHMO dental plans: What’s the difference?

A PPO plan, or fee-for-service plan, is a network-based plan in which enrollees can visit any licensed dentist, although they’ll save more by visiting an in-network dentist. These plans usually have annual deductibles and plan maximums.

A DHMO plan is a prepaid dental benefits product in which enrollees usually must visit their selected primary care general dentist to receive benefits. These plans have no annual deductibles or plan maximums — enrollees pay a fixed copayment amount for covered procedures.

Who buys individual dental insurance?

Anyone who has either had an employer-sponsored dental plan or bought an individual dental plan in the past is a potential client. Even clients who currently have individual dental insurance may be willing to change or update their coverage to get better rates or richer benefits.

DHMO buyers are more likely than PPO buyers to be switching from one individual dental plan to another. PPO buyers are usually transitioning to an individual plan from employer-based group dental coverage. Not surprisingly, the most common reason for this is because they retired from a job and lost their coverage.

What are some major drivers for dental insurance buyers?

Clients shopping for individual dental insurance obviously care about their dental health. That’s why for both PPO and DMHO buyers, having coverage for preventive care and being able to maintain the appearance of their teeth are the two most important factors in their decision to buy.

For PPO buyers, key factors include a dentist network that allows them to keep their current dentist. Consider suggesting plans that offer a large dentist network, which increases the likelihood that their dentist participates in the plan. PPO buyers also like to stick with what they know — we find that familiarity with a brand is an important factor in choosing a dental plan.

Among DHMO buyers, cost and value are more important. Key factors for purchase include low out-of-pocket costs, lowest price and the best coverage for the price.

Income may help you determine which products to consider for your clients. For clients with higher incomes, consider PPO plans, because we’ve found that these clients usually want the flexibility to see the dentist of their choice. Brand recognition is also important.

For clients who earn less, a DHMO plan may be a better option. Both cost and the ability to meet dental care needs are important to these clients, so knowing ahead of time how much a procedure will cost — and being able to plan and prioritize care accordingly — could be a plus.

For all clients, consider bundling offerings. Dental insurance buyers may also be interested in medical and vision insurance. However, they tend to be less interested in other types of insurance, such as life, disability, accident or pet insurance.

How do buyers like to shop?

According to a recent survey, the broker channel is a preferred method among American insurance buyers, with 43% selecting a broker or agent as a favorite option. That rate was higher among baby boomer and Generation X buyers, 61% of whom purchased insurance from a broker. Among millennials, 23% said they used an agent or broker to buy insurance.

The most popular shopping method overall was online, and most of the buyers surveyed said they used more than one channel to shop.

Among the most influential factors when shopping were an easy application process, followed by trust in the brand.

Is there anything else about buyers that I should be aware of?

Our research indicates that all buyers have a similar perception about value of dental insurance. They believe that dental insurance saves money on unexpected costs and makes visiting a dentist more affordable. Both direct PPO and DHMO buyers agree — dental insurance is a smart financial choice.

Selling dental insurance to the Asian American and Pacific Islander market

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. So what better time to learn more about this diverse community and how to better serve your current and prospective Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individual clients?

Perhaps more than any other group, the AAPI community presents opportunities for dental insurance brokers who sell directly to individuals.

That’s intriguing. But when we say “AAPI,” who are we talking about, exactly?

While this can be a complicated and somewhat divisive question, AAPI is all people of Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander ancestry, according to The Asian Pacific Institute.

This can include people with origins from:

  • East Asia (including China, Japan and Korea)
  • Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam)
  • South Asia (including India and Pakistan)
  • Central Asia (including Afghanistan and Mongolia)
  • Hawaii and the Pacific Islands

In all, more than 50 countries fall under the AAPI umbrella.

Wow, that covers a lot of people. How do I cater to such a diverse group?

Not surprisingly, finding a “one-size-fits all” approach to attract and support AAPI clients probably isn’t realistic. For example, different Asian American and Pacific Islander groups vary widely in terms of income, education level, languages spoken and English fluency, and determining the specific needs of the AAPI population in your area will require some research on your part.

That said, a recent Nielsen report found some commonalities among Asian American consumers’ demographics, media preferences and buying habits.

They’re asking about you.

Broker tip: Building loyalty with your AAPI clients is important, not only to retain their business but also to attract new customers from their network of family, friends and neighbors.

When it comes to doing business with the AAPI community, positive recommendations — from friends, family and the internet — are critical.

  • More than 40% of Asian Americans surveyed said family members influence their buying decisions
  • Almost 30% said that they prefer to buy products and services their friends approve of
  • Almost 75% said that they read online reviews by others before making a purchase 

Speaking of family, AAPI households tend to be large. And affluent.

Broker tips:

  • Successfully attracting one AAPI client could potentially lead to a lasting business relationship with the client’s extended family.
  • Discuss dental plans for families and for seniors.

The AAPI community has a higher-than-average household income of $85,000, compared to $60,000 for the total population. Asians also have the highest top and median incomes among any U.S. population.

An important caveat is that there’s a large income disparity among specific groups within the AAPI community. For example, a recent Pew Research study found the following:

  • Asians at the top of their income distribution earn more than 10 times more than Asians at the bottom
  • Indian households have a much higher than average household income and rate of college graduation ($100,000 and 72%)
  • For certain Southeast and Central Asian populations, the poverty rate is as high as 35%

One of the reasons AAPI households earn more on average than the overall population is size. They’re 17% larger than the average U.S. household and are often multigenerational.

The multigenerational element is important, because heads of AAPI households are more likely than other populations to make purchase decisions for the entire household, including their spouses, children, parents and relatives.

The AAPI community loves technology and media.

Broker tips:

  • Consider targeted television and internet advertising to attract new clients.
  • Maintain an online presence, including social media accounts and an attractive, useful and up-to-date website optimized for mobile use.

Not only do AAPI households tend to be larger than the U.S. average, these households also tend to be wired. Among AAPI households:

  • 99% have internet access
  • 97% have a smartphone
  • 89% have a computer, which is 13% higher than the overall population

And they use these devices. A lot. AAPI households spend more time than average surfing the web on their computers, social networking on their smartphones, watching video on both computers and tablets, and shopping online.

  • The AAPI community shops online at a rate 34% higher than the total population
  • Almost 90% have purchased a product or service online in the past year

The AAPI community also spends another 23 hours per week watching television — more than any other group in the U.S.

Language can be tricky.

Broker tips:

  • Determine both the ethnic groups and age groups within the AAPI community you want to target.
  • Depending on which demographic you want to reach, advertising on native-language media outlets, such as cable channels, radio, magazines, newspapers, and online and social media, might make sense.
  • To attract younger clients, conventional English-language advertising, or a mix of both, might be more effective.
  • If you have a staff, determine whether anyone speaks a relevant language and if not, consider hiring someone who does.

For both marketing and interactions, language can be a challenge. Unlike other groups that share a single language, the AAPI community speaks more than 50 languages and thousands of dialects.

Of course, many members of the AAPI community also speak English — among native Hawaiians, that number is nearly 100%. But English literacy differs greatly between immigrants and those born in the United States. 

The key factor here is age. For example, among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under the age of the 35:

  • 34% were born outside the U.S.
  • 95% percent speak English well or exclusively

Contrast that with ages 55 and older:

  • Approximately 85% were born outside the U.S.
  • For several communities, such as Thai and Vietnamese, the number who were foreign-born approaches 100%
  • 56% have limited English proficiency (and more than 85% for certain groups, such as Vietnamese and Hmong)
  • Only 15% speak English at home

Attracting and working with older AAPI clients might then seem daunting. But a bit of community research can help. Find out who the largest AAPI population is in your community and focus on them. If there are several, Bill Imada, Founder and Chairman of AAPI-focused ad agency the IW Group, advises starting with one group, learning from your experience, and then using the lessons learned to focus on others.

And when you advertise, be sure to feature images of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. A recent Porter Novelli report found that people who didn’t feel represented in a company’s marketing were less likely to support that company.

Finally, if you have a staff, find out if anyone is at least partly fluent in a relevant language — you might already have an invaluable resource and not even know it!

Being able to communicate effectively with these clients is important. That’s because insurance brokers often play an essential role in the providing the AAPI community with access to the health and dental coverage they need. For example, according to recent data about California’s insurance marketplace, most Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese enrollees buy plans through certified insurance agents, as opposed to community groups or the Covered California website.

Support the AAPI community

Broker tip: Support your local community and work with organizations that serve it.

Family and community are very important to the AAPI community, and more than half said they’re more likely to purchase brands that support a cause they care about.

With that in mind, a great way to promote yourself and your business is to support local and national organizations that help the AAPI community. Certainly, a cash contribution is always welcome, but other suggestions for getting out and making a difference are:

  • Working with a local organization to expand dental access to the community
  • Volunteering or collaborating on an outreach project to help recent immigrants navigate the individual health and dental insurance market
  • Advertising or sponsoring an event to promote dental care

Some local and national organizations that serve the Asian and Pacific Islander communities include:

That’s helpful. But what else can Delta Dental do to help me?

Older Asian Americans and recently arrived immigrants can face challenges accessing oral health care. They might be unfamiliar with the U.S. health care system and have difficulty communicating in English.

Fortunately, Delta Dental offers materials and services that can help you make it easier for them:

  • The Language Assistance Program. Through this free service, your clients can get professional translation and interpretive services. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more. They can even request in-person interpreter services for dental visits, with 72 hours’ notice.
  • The Find a Dentist tool. Your clients can search for dentists who meet their specific language needs, such as Chinese or Tagalog. You can even use the directory to compile a list for them.

Supporting an individual client base as diverse as the AAPI community can be a challenge. But with some research and some help from Delta Dental, you can create strong relationships that can last for years, and perhaps even generations, to come.

Accessibility — more than just a buzzword

When your clients think of accessibility, they may think of wheelchair ramps and designated parking spaces. But when it comes to ensuring high-quality care, accessibility goes beyond the physical world. Accessibility extends into digital spaces and into the interactions that people have in their day-to-day lives. Let’s take a look at the ways accessibility can be an important part of dental insurance and what it means for your clients.

What is accessibility?

Accessibility is about making an experience available to the widest group of people, including those with physical or cognitive disabilities. That can include:

  • Using alternate text in images so that screen readers can describe them to users who are blind
  • Providing transcripts of videos for users who are deaf
  • Designing websites simply for users who have cognitive disabilities

What this means for your clients’ employees is simple: when they visit Delta Dental’s website or need to call customer service, their questions will be answered and their needs will be met, no matter their abilities.

Why does accessibility matter?

“[Accessibility] improves people’s lives. And how often do you get a chance in your job to dramatically improve other people’s lives by just doing your work a little better?”

  • Steve Krug, user experience professional

There are legal reasons to make accessibility a priority. Under laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, it is illegal to have Federal electronic and information technology inaccessible to people with disabilities or to discriminate on the basis of disability.

But accessibility is about more than just avoiding a lawsuit. Accessibility is about inclusivity for all of your clients’ employees, no matter their needs. With just a little effort, impediments like being unable to hear a video or read a website can be overcome, and more people will be able to access the quality care that they deserve.

Additionally, designing websites and implementing customer service practices that make life easier for those with disabilities often makes life easier for everyone. Regardless of their abilities, everyone appreciates simple and intuitive designs and being able to change settings to their personal preferences when it comes to interacting with websites and customer service platforms.

What is Delta Dental doing to advance accessibility?

At Delta Dental, we are committed to ensuring the accessibility of our products and services for everyone. We are committed to providing a platform that goes beyond mere compliance and seeks to provide a more meaningful experience for our customers with diverse backgrounds, abilities and perceptions. Our website and other products comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 levels A/AA, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), in addition to other local governing laws. For more information, see our accessibility statement.

In real terms, that means supporting popular web browsers, including Chrome, Edge, Safari and Firefox in desktop and mobile web views, as well as assistive technology including, but not limited to, screen readers and magnifiers on various platforms. We also provide services for non-English speaking employees through the Language Assistance Program (LAP). Through LAP, members can request documents in accessible formats, like Braille, and have on-site American Sign Language interpreters accompany them during dental visits. To take advantage of these services, including instructions on requesting an on-site interpreter, your clients can visit our language assistance page or call customer service.

Accessibility is about more than just checking boxes and meeting requirements. It’s really about providing a high quality experience for everyone. We’re proud to join you in serving a diverse audience and bringing all of your clients great dental care.

Your clients can now pair their Delta Dental coverage with VSP vision

Helping your small business clients find the right insurance coverage can be complicated, but Delta Dental is making it simpler. Delta Dental’s Small Business Program (SBP) dental plans and VSP® vision plans are available paired together through the Allied Benefit Suite. It’s never been simpler to offer your clients comprehensive plans from two industry leaders in a single itemized invoice. Here’s a quick look at answers to common questions.

Where are paired plans available?

Vision plans are available in all states that our SBP dental plans are offered and administered by Allied Administrators. Vision coverage is not available on its own. It must be paired with dental. Vision coverage can also be added to existing SBP plans administered by Allied Administrators.

What kind of coverage do these plans offer?

These new vision plansfeature comprehensive coverage on VSP’s nationwide network. They’re available in the same three-level structure as SBP dental plans (Deluxe, Advantage and Core), so you don’t have to worry about learning a new system and explaining it to your clients. These levels allow for flexibility based on your clients’ budgets and needs, including voluntary or employer-paid options, and can be paired with any level of SBP dental plan.

What kind of benefits are included?

Benefits vary by level, but every vision plan includes:

  • Coverage for an annual eye exam and lenses
  • A frame or contact lens allowance (contact lenses are available in place of lenses and frames)
  • Access to VSP’s nationwide network

With VSP vision coverage paired with to their Delta Dental SBP plans, your clients will enjoy simpler billing and more care for their employees, and you’ll get to offer a more attractive package to your clients. If you want to learn more or get a quote, visit our Sales Contact page. It’s easy to see that’s a win-win.

Vision coverage is provided by VSP.

©2021 Vision Service Plan. All rights reserved.

VSP is a registered trademark of Vision Service Plan.

Delta Dental’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation renewed

Delta Dental Insurance Company’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation has been renewed through March 2024.

“Achieving NCQA Credentialing Accreditation demonstrates that Delta Dental Insurance Company has the systems, process and personnel in place to conduct credentialing in accordance with the strictest quality standards,” said Margaret E. O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA’s Credentialing Accreditation is a quality assessment program that focuses on consumer protection and customer service improvement.

NCQA has reviewed and accredited Delta Dental Insurance Company’s Credentialing functions only. For complete details on the scope of this review, visit www.ncqa.org.

Dental care for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Happy National Deaf History Month! If you haven’t heard of this season, it runs from March 13 to April 15. Nearly 15% of adult Americans report trouble hearing, so your clients may have employees with hearing issues and aren’t even aware of it! Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals face some unique challenges when it comes to getting dental care. Even making an appointment can be difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions available to ensure that no problem is insurmountable. Here are some of the common issues that people who are deaf and hard of hearing can encounter and what Delta Dental does to help solve them.

Challenges and considerations

When it comes to getting quality dental care, challenges can start before people who are deaf and hard of hearing ever set foot in the office.

  • The deaf and hard-of-hearing can have difficulty just making appointments. Not every office will have someone fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) on staff, but if an office isn’t set up to schedule appointments by text or email, it can be impossible for deaf patients to even step foot inside.
  • Dentists that don’t speak clearly, slowly and while looking at members make it hard to read lips. The deaf and hard of hearing may rely more on lip-reading than others. Seeing a dentist who is in a hurry or who talks while moving all about the practice can make it more difficult for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to follow what’s being said. To make things even harder, the fact that everyone is wearing masks because of COVID-19 only compounds this issue.
  • People may not even realize that they’re hard-of-hearing. Because most everyone loses some of their hearing as they get older, the change can happen so gradually that some people aren’t even aware of it. Attentive dentists can notice when their patients seem to have difficulty with hearing them or following a conversation and adjust accordingly.

Solutions and resources

Whether a person has recently become hard of hearing or has been deaf since birth, there are two major tools available to help them.

  • The Language Assistance Program (LAP). The LAP is a free service that Delta Dental members can use to get professional interpretive services for their non-English needs. This includes phone assistance, written materials and more, including an in-person translator when given 72 hours’ notice. Most importantly for deaf patients, this means that they can have an interpreter fluent in ASL accompany them to their dental visits!
  • The Find a Dentist search tool. The Find a Dentist search tool is perfect for members looking to find an in-network dentist that fits their specific needs. Members can search by distance and specialty, but they can also search for dentists by the languages their offices support and available accessibility features, including dentist offices where the staff is fluent in ASL!

More than 35 million people in the United States report having trouble hearing, whether they suffer from mild hearing loss or are completely deaf, so it’s essential for your clients that their dental coverage take this into consideration. Fortunately, valuable services like the Language Assistance Program and thoughtful features like the Find a Dentist search tool make it easier for deaf and hard-of-hearing members to get their dental needs taken care of.

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