Broker blog from Delta Dental

Category: Insights for selling (Page 1 of 3)

Get tips and tricks to help you sell Delta Dental plans.

Has COVID-19 changed open enrollment forever?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused long-lasting changes to our priorities as a society and as individuals. From cancelled events, working from home and separation from friends and family, we’ve had to adapt to the situation as best we can. So, it’s no wonder that the uncertainty of the pandemic has caused enrollees’ priorities to shift.

Enrollment methods have changed

Due to COVID-19, most brokers experienced a change in their most frequently used enrollment method in 2020, according to a survey by BenefitsPRO. Only 2% of enrollees used paper enrollment forms, while 38% of enrollees signed up online, using self-service portals. For 76% of agencies, the way they do business has changed after 2020.

You should also expect that having online open enrollment may mean that your groups will be looking for any data you can share with them. Having hard data about what benefits are being selected, historic price information and other statistics about your current clients will help you gain more clients in the future.

Greater focus on the whole family

In the past year and a half, many adults became caregivers for their parents and took on education roles for their children while also working full-time. Employees are looking for benefits that extend to their family members and benefits that make the care of their family easier, like family and medical leave, assisted living coverage and child care coverage. Getting the whole family covered even extends to furry friends; the number of pets insured in North America has increased 23% since 2019.

Mental health services are more important than ever

The stress and difficulty of the pandemic have taken a toll on mental health. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who reported symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 36% to 42% between August 2020 and February 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Before the pandemic, Americans only chose virtual options for mental health care 20% of the time. After the pandemic started, the American Psychiatric Association saw their own members’ usage of telehealth services jump to 85%.

Employers are responding by offering mental health benefits that include access to online resources and apps that address stress and difficulty sleeping. About 70% of employers planned to start, continue or expand investment in mental health resources in 2021, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company. Employers who invest in mental health coverage get results. Almost 86% of employees who are treated for depression symptoms show substantial improvement in work performance, according to one study.  

Employees expect to keep using telehealth options

While virtual visits won’t completely replace in-person visits any time soon, they’re definitely sticking around. Telehealth visits spiked during March 2020, but there were 10 times more telehealth visits in March 2021 than in March 2020, according to a market report.

Employees are using telehealth services and, in many cases, they expect to keep using it. In some cases, patients rated their interactions with their providers higher when they had virtual appointments than in-person. To appeal to a variety of employee preferences, Delta Dental offers two different kinds of virtual dentistry: video-based and photo-based.

Virtual events preferred over in-person

With many employees still working from home and continually changing safety recommendations, in-person enrollment events are still being pushed online. Luckily, virtual enrollment has advantages for you and your clients. Instead of fielding phone calls and emails all day, you can update your website in real time to address common questions. Enrollees can research and select benefits without having to keep track of physical papers or even leave the house.

What do successful virtual open enrollment events look like?  A study by Flimp Communications concluded that a high-performing open enrollment campaign includes:

  • Microsites. These websites are customized to fulfill your groups’ specific benefits needs with unique visuals, video and copy and can be used to address members’ frequently asked questions.
  • Video. Both short-form and long-form video have a place in your campaign. A short-form video may simply be a quick, supplemental explainer and a long-form video would be more detailed and available for employees on demand.
  • Links. Linking out to your enrollment portal, to helpful PDFs, contact pages or financial-wellness portals helps employees sign up for and best utilize their benefits.
  • Decision support. Tools that collect all key benefits information into one place and then make recommendations based on algorithms or questionnaires had higher-than-average engagement.
  • Analytics. With real-time analytics, you and your team can adjust to help employees answer questions online. When you know what drives traffic, what people want, and when people want it, you’ll be even better prepared for next time.

The pros and cons of virtual events

Technology has its limits, however. The Pew Research Center found that only 26% of internet users aged 65 years or older felt very confident when using electronics to get things done online. If all your materials are online, make sure they’re easy to find for everyone, regardless of skill with technology. That means clearly labeling links and having logical paths through your website, as well as making sure all materials can be easily downloaded and viewed without special software.

In that same vein, virtual open enrollment gives you the ability to be increasingly accessible to those with disabilities. Gaps in accessibility can leave individuals with visual, hearing and motor disabilities without the ability to make informed decisions about their health care. By using accessible websites, you make it easier for everyone in your clients’ groups to get health care. 

Open enrollment changes motivated by COVID-19 may be here to stay. Adapt your open enrollment offerings to serve your group clients’ needs during and beyond the pandemic. Being flexible and responsive helps ensure members understand their benefits for the year ahead and are able to get the coverage they need.

Track your success with our broker rewards dashboard

If you sell our small business plans, here’s a tool that can help you shine! The small business rewards program dashboard for brokers has everything you need to take full advantage of our broker rewards program.

Retention information

Some of the dashboard’s helpful features include:

  • Your rewards program earnings
  • Your bonus level status
  • Targets that show you how many new sales you need to reach the next bonus level
  • New sales and persistency bonus status summaries
  • Active groups retention counts
  • Total groups year-to-date, including new and existing groups
  • A downloadable report
  • Rewards program eligibility rules and requirements
New sales information

And if you need support, it’s available via email or phone at 866–760-4080.

To take advantage of all the dashboard has to offer, register today. The process is simple. All you need to get started is a few pieces of information:

  • Your name
  • Agency name
  • Email address
  • Social Security or individual taxpayer identification number

After you’ve entered the required information and we’ve located your broker account, we’ll send you a validation email to complete your registration. Note that you may not be able to access the dashboard directly if your agency is the legal entity receiving commissions rather than you.

For questions about the dashboard or the broker rewards program, please contact your Delta Dental sales account executive. Interested in selling to small business? Learn more about our Small Business Program.

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.

A quick look at people without dental insurance

In 2019, there were almost 74 million people, or nearly 25% of Americans, without dental insurance in the United States. At the height of the unemployment rate’s rise, coronavirus-related job losses and cutbacks left more than 16 million people without dental insurance from an employer. Some of that population will either purchase individual dental coverage, or else find coverage through government plans, but the number of individuals without dental insurance is still expected to increase to as many as 82 million individuals.

Let’s take a closer look at this growing market.

Who are the uninsured?

When examining the 2019 enrollment survey by the National Association of Dental Plans, there are two qualities that jump out when looking at the average uninsured individual.

The first is that people without dental insurance tend to be older than the average American, with an average age of 53.

Second, the uninsured are more likely to be women. Women make up 66% of the uninsured population in America.

Beyond that, the uninsured are a fairly diverse group.

  • Compared to the general population, the uninsured are less likely to be working full-time,with 40% employed and 40% retired. The remaining 20% are unemployed or not working by choice.
  • The uninsured are more likely to be non-Hispanic whites than the general population, at nearly 80% compared to 60.7% for the general population.
  • More than a quarter have children under age 26 at home. Over 40% of the general population has children in this age group at home, so the uninsured are less likely to have children at home than the general population.
  • More than half have some college education. The gap between the uninsured and the general population is very small here. As a whole, just over 50% of Americans over 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • More than half of the uninsured are married or in a domestic partnership. A little less than a quarter are single, and the remainder are divorced or widowed.

Why don’t people have dental insurance?

One reason why the uninsured don’t have coverage may have to do with the high average age of the group. They may be retired or reliant on Medicare for insurance, and only Medicare C plans may cover dental. For these individuals, remind them of the low monthly cost of premiums and the size of Delta Dental’s network to help them see that dental coverage is both affordable on a fixed income and easy to access.

There may also be a general lack of information, particularly among those who are retired or jobless and don’t have a benefits administrator to curate plans. Share resources such as Grin! to help them understand why dental coverage is important and what their options are.

Some of the uninsured may have chosen to not have dental insurance, especially if they’ve been looking to cut costs due to changes in their employment status. Over the past year, 39% of Americans reduced or eliminated their insurance for financial reasons, according to Dentistry Today. Of those who have been furloughed or laid off because of COVID-19, this number jumps to 65%.

Common reasons given for choosing not to have insurance include:

  • “My oral health is already good, and I don’t need to visit the dentist.”
  • “Dental insurance isn’t worth the money. I’d rather pay out of pocket.”
  • “I don’t have insurance, because I use a flex spending or health savings account to cover costs.”
  • “The dentist I see isn’t in the insurance network anyway.”

Sharing information about the benefits of dental insurance, even in times of economic uncertainty and the coronavirus pandemic, may help persuade these individuals. You can also remind them that having insurance can be worthwhile because it makes it easier to keep dependents covered, including some adult children.

COVID-19 and the uninsured

The disruptions caused by COVID-19 have affected the uninsured population especially hard. Without insurance to help catch issues early, the uninsured are more likely to have untreated oral health issues and other problems. People with oral health issues and chronic diseases are at higher risk of hospitalization from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Having and using dental insurance can help lower the risk of serious complications from COVID-19.

Given that the uninsured population is more likely to be vulnerable to costly dental bills, inadequate dental care and experiencing health issues that go alongside poor oral health, dental coverage is more important than ever before.

Effective discount: Understanding a plan’s true savings

When your group clients consider a PPO dental plan, certainly one of the deciding factors is savings — during a dental visit, how much will this plan save my employees?

Traditionally, a good way to judge this has been to consider the plan’s PPO network discount, or the discount offered on dental services when visiting a dentist within the plan’s PPO network. After factoring in the fees, the greater the discount, the better the plan, right?

Not exactly. While PPO network discount is one chapter of savings, it’s not the whole story. A more accurate way to gauge a plan’s true savings is to consider the plan’s effective discount. The effective discount considers the average savings enrollees receive when visiting any dentist, either in network or out of network.

It’s here where Delta Dental offers a unique advantage: the Delta Dental PPO™ plan with the Delta Dental Premier® network.

With most PPO plans, the PPO network is absolute — you’re in or you’re out. And if you visit an out-of-network dentist, you’re responsible for the full cost of dental services provided by that dentist. The Premier network offers a secondary network that acts as a “safety net” if a PPO enrollee can’t find, or chooses not to visit, a dentist within the PPO network.

While the Premier network provides a smaller discount than the PPO network, the combined size of the two networks — more than 155,000 unique dentists as of 2020 — ensures that most people covered under a PPO plan can visit a Delta Dental dentist and save. This large network enables Delta Dental to deliver a national network utilization rate of 94%, compared to an average PPO utilization of 65% for competitor networks.

And it’s this safety net that often makes a Delta Dental PPO plan a better value than one from another company.

For example, let’s look at a theoretical example in which there are two group PPO plans with identical fees: one from Delta Dental and one from a carrier without a secondary network. In each scenario, 10 people are insured. Five visit PPO dentists and receive a discount, and five visit non-PPO dentists. The Delta Dental plan provides a 35% discount at PPO dentists. The other plan provides a 36% discount at PPO dentists.

Given the otherwise identical scenarios, it might at first seem that the plan with the higher PPO network discount offers the better value. However, in the Delta Dental plan, four people can visit a Premier dentist for a 19% discount. Because only one person visits a non–Delta Dental dentist, the group receives a total effective discount of 25%. Contrast this with the other plan. Because half receive no discount at all, the effective discount is only 18%.

It’s not surprising then that Delta Dental offers groups the best effective discount in the country, averaging 29.4% nationally in 2019, according to a July 2020 study by Dental Actuarial Analytics. This equals more than $8.2B in savings for enrollees annually when compared to dentists’ average charges for services.

So, remember when speaking with your group clients: Savings is more than PPO discounts. When you consider effective discount, you offer a complete story. One with an ending your clients should like.

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