Broker blog from Delta Dental

Tag: COVID-19 (Page 1 of 3)

3 reasons customers are seeking dental insurance now

The pandemic has changed how we work, how we interact and even how we think about our health and safety. As consumer attitudes toward oral health have changed, dental insurance has become more important than ever. Here are some of the reasons that employers and individuals alike are seeking out dental benefits in 2022 and how you can help meet the new demand.

1. Competitive benefits help employers combat the Great Resignation

The pandemic has triggered an exodus from the workforce that economists have labeled the “Great Resignation.” One of the top reasons employees are giving for leaving a position is lack of adequate benefits. 

As the pandemic reshapes the labor market, companies must rethink and retool their benefit offerings to attract and retain talent. About 37% of employees in a recent survey said they value stronger benefits over additional salaries or bonuses, and they consistently rank dental insurance as one of the most important benefits in making a job decision.

Employers who offer dental insurance want a plan that stands out. With Delta Dental, you can help your group clients create plans with the attractive added benefits that employees are seeking now, like maximum waivers for diagnostic and preventive services and coverage for popular but costly services like implants and orthodontics.

2. Dental health needs have grown

The pandemic has also had a direct effect on oral health, creating another reminder of the value of dental insurance. A 2021 survey conducted by the American Dental Association showed a major increase, up to 71%, in stress-related oral health conditions during the pandemic, and more than a quarter of the dentists surveyed reported an increase in cavities and gum disease, as well.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, those with insurance remained more likely to visit the dentist than those without, thereby increasing the likelihood for positive health outcomes when faced with these new challenges.

Companies are seeking to bulk up their benefits to attract and retain employees, and workers are likewise seeking strong dental packages to handle the health issues arising due to the pandemic. Match clients with the dental coverage they’re looking for with Delta Dental PPO™ and DeltaCare® USA plans, which can meet these new demands and reduce the chances for serious (and expensive) health issues down the line.

3. Patients value teledentistry as an option

Fear of returning to the dentist caused teledentistry to boom during the pandemic, with more patients using the technology than ever before. For instance, Delta Dental’s synchronous and asynchronous teledentistry claims in 2021 were six times and two times higher than 2019 levels, respectively.

Many consumers grew accustomed to using teledentistry during the pandemic, and they want to have it as an option moving forward for its safety and convenience. Satisfaction levels with teledentistry services during the COVID-19 pandemic were 100% in the satisfied and very satisfied categories, according to one recent study, and 96% of participating patients in another study said they would use the service again.

When your clients are covered under a Delta Dental PPO or Delta Dental Premier plan, they have two options for free-to-access, easy-to-use teledentistry platforms:

  • Virtual Consult. Offers patients a consultation with a Delta Dental dentist about dental issues over live video.
  • Toothpic. Offers patients a format to submit photos to receive personalized treatment recommendations from a Delta Dental dentist within 24 hours.

And with Delta Dental, members can still see a dentist in person after choosing a virtual dentistry appointment.

Reminding clients of the convenience, popularity and safety of teledentistry can help make a comprehensive dental insurance package that much more attractive. Delta Dental plans give you access to the technology that your clients want now.

Your clients need dental benefits in a post-pandemic world

The pandemic has changed some of Americans’ central attitudes toward dental benefits. Employers are looking to add or increase benefits, and individuals have started to realize the long-term advantages of maintaining their oral health through robust coverage.

With Delta Dental, you can help your clients find affordable, highly rated coverage and a large network of experienced providers. Check out Delta Dental’s wealth of sales resources, and be sure to talk to your group and individual clients about the importance of dental insurance to help them select a Delta Dental plan that can support their overall needs.

How small businesses can use benefits to attract and keep talent

As small businesses continue to recover and reopen, they’re faced with new challenges recruiting and retaining employees. More than 40% of small business owners reported having trouble finding job candidates to fill open positions, according to a recent survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

This has led many small business owners to revisit their benefit offerings to improve retention and productivity. And in our partnerships with brokers, we’re seeing many brokers create opportunities by stepping in to help their clients stand out in this challenging hiring environment.

Areas of opportunity to enhance small business offerings

As a broker, you can help small business clients recruit and retain talent by understanding what attracts employees and entices them to stay.

For 63% of job seekers, benefits and perks are major factors in determining whether to accept a job, according to Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey. Employees are increasingly seeking out comprehensive benefits and perks, so brokers must be knowledgeable and creative when helping clients build benefits packages.

Dental and vison benefits are important to potential hires

Quality benefits that include dental and vision coverage are one of the most important considerations when candidates choose a position, according to a Fractl study on employee benefits. Combining these core benefits with wellness benefits, many of which can be delivered with no or minimal cost to the employer, can help small business owners differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.

Add value by pairing benefits

Research by Delta Dental and feedback from small business owners and brokers show that pairing products is a popular option. When you pair dental and vision benefits, you can help speed up the selection process and streamline plan administration ― there’s one application, one itemized bill and a single point of contact. Simplifying the administration can also free up time to partner with your clients and help them attract talent with a creative, innovative and well-designed collection of benefits. 

Note that our vision pairings are available only through Allied Administrators and in states where DeltaVision is offered. DeltaVision plans are currently available in AL, CA, DC, DE, FL, GA, LA, MT, NV, PA, UT and WV. 

Creating a benefits package is just the start

After your client purchases a package, you can continue to play a vital role by ensuring that products are easy to maintain, monitoring trends in the employment market and researching what employees want when they make employment decisions. And don’t forget to visit Insider Update to stay on top of benefits trends.

With a strategic, informed, and solution-focused broker in their corner, your clients can spend more time serving their customers and teams and less time trying to be benefits professionals.

The role of the broker post-COVID

The pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of American life, and selling insurance is no exception.

Your clients are conducting business differently. Budgets have been cut and many employees continue to work remotely. The benefits landscape has changed as well. Many of your clients’ employees are dealing with new economic realities, so they’re looking at benefit choices differently.

Here are some of the trends that have transformed the role of the benefits broker in the era of COVID.

New ways to connect with clients

Despite the challenges of the past two years, you’ve still worked to connect, engage and build relationships with your clients. While you’ve probably had less interpersonal contact with your clients, their expectations of speed, personalization and convenience have risen, and virtual enrollment has become the norm.

As a result, delivering value to your clients through digital services and compelling experiences can help you thrive in this new environment. For 2022, be sure to check Delta Dental’s marketing resources for a selection of digital resources that can help you communicate with your clients, from individuals and small businesses to larger companies with 100 employees or more. 

Advising clients on benefits that work in the new normal

What your clients and their employees want from their benefits is probably different from what they wanted a few years ago. With a decentralized workforce, flexibility and choice are more valuable than ever, and savvy brokers have kept pace with employees’ interest in new and expanded benefits.

Consider:

  • Ensuring that telehealth, such as Delta Dental’s Virtual Consult, and expanded mental health services are included in health care offerings.
  • Offering benefits and perks that promote employee well-being, including overall wellness, mental health and even financial health. Delta Dental gives enrollees access to attractive value-added features, such as discounts on Amplifon hearing aids and QualSight LASIK eye surgery.
  • Taking on an advisory role to help clients and employees understand what’s available to them and choose the best options.

The number of employers offering voluntary benefits increased 27% during the COVID pandemic. For brokers, this is an opportunity to expand workplace benefits offerings. 

Greater focus on the whole family

Your clients’ employees probably spend more time at home than ever before. Some became caregivers for their parents; others took on educational roles for their children.

Now more than ever, employees are looking for benefits that extend to their family members. A recent survey of employers found that 41% of respondents plan to newly offer or expand senior care benefits to employees, and 63% said they plan to increase their company’s current child care benefits.

Looking ahead

You likely saw your business change in the past few years. But crisis breeds opportunity. Economic challenges offer you the chance to demonstrate the value you bring to your clients and their employees and help them navigate this new world.

The 5 New Year’s resolutions brokers should make for 2022

The past year has been anything but predictable, and the new one promises to be just as turbulent. But setting goals can make all the difference between a productive year and a chaotic one. It’s the perfect time to look back and reflect on the ups and downs of the previous year, and also to make a plan for moving forward.

You may already have some personal New Year’s resolutions in mind for 2022, but why not include some professional ones, as well? Here are our ideas for the top resolutions to make for 2022.

Update your look

Stay-at-home orders and social distancing may leave you feeling a little sluggish and idle, but the outward-facing appearance of your business can’t sit stagnant at this time.

If anything, your digital presence — whether that involves your website, your logo, your presentation slides, your social media, your email signature — is going to be the first impression many people have of you this coming year. You want to be sure that’s a good one.

In 2022, resolve to take a closer look at:

  • Your website. While it’s true that not every website needs every bell and whistle imaginable, you also don’t want potential clients to think you’re stuck in 2011. Start by making sure your business site is clean, professional, up to date and easy to navigate, and if it’s not, resolve to fix it in 2022.
  • Your emails. Make sure any email signatures and avatars are up to date and truly represent you and your business. Brush up on email etiquette (we especially like the 10 golden rules of work email), and be sure your business is following up promptly and politely, even with leads that don’t seem imminently exciting.
  • Your presentations and virtual booths. To improve your appearance, also think about how to create better presentations for clients. Consider creating tailored presentations for each client to add a more personalized touch to the health insurance quoting process. Content is important, but looks matter, too! Make sure your presentation slides have a sleek, engaging, unified and professional look, as do any virtual booths for big events.
  • Your social media. With social media, aim for quality not quantity to attract more user engagement. Be creative and conversational. If you’re at a loss for what will interest people, think of the type of content you most enjoy reading and start from there. Make sure your various profile pages are up to date and that they represent you and your business well.

Seek safe ways to step out of the silo

Whether with clients, potential clients or employees, your face-to-face interactions with others likely had to drop to almost nil in 2020 and 2021. But once these meetings were no longer possible, you probably also began to realize how important these interactions could be. Sales is a tough job that constantly requires re-direction and realignment, and these often take shape through personal interaction.

Consider some safe ways to step briefly out of your digital silo in 2022. Consider planning a small outdoor coffee klatch in a spot where everyone feels safe and comfortable. If you have a longtime client in your area, consider planning a walking meeting in a local park to catch up with your contact. Deployed with the utmost care, a few ”safety first” interpersonal interactions could help make a difference in 2022.

Read more

After a long day in front of the screen, it’s tempting to relax by, well, staying in front of the screen, either surfing the internet or diving in to the latest bingeable TV series. But reading a book every now and then can truly help you relax. And the right book could even help with your sales.

If you feel you don’t have time to read, you can always find good titles at sites like Audible.com. The books download to your smartphone, and you can learn more about insurance sales and marketing while you drive, exercise or do yardwork.

Don’t be afraid to follow your own interests and read to fill the gaps in your own knowledge.

To get you started in 2022, consider picking up these new titles:

Prepare early for open enrollment

Open enrollment is a busy time, but it’s one you can prepare for. Make your resolution this New Year’s to prepare early for open enrollment, so that the crazy time of year will feel a lot less hectic in 2022.

As much as possible, make sure emails, websites, presentations and flyers are up-to-date and accurate well before the season begins. You may also find Delta Dental’s resource page for open enrollment helpful in preparing for the busiest time of year.

You yourself are the best source of knowledge about how to prepare. This new year’s, think carefully about the successes and shortcomings of the open enrollment season in 2021. Make a list of what you could have done better and make the resolution to improve any problem areas through better preparation.

Relax

Don’t forget to take some time for self-care in 2022! In this “new normal,” it’s easy to get wrapped up in work and to forget that pacing yourself is actually one of the most crucial aspects of productivity.

If travel isn’t possible, consider taking a staycation this year, using the time to do some fun (and safe!) activities in your own area, such as local hikes or an outdoor concert in warmer weather.

And don’t forget the little daily things, like a tea break in the afternoon or a walk around the block after work, that can really help you de-stress.

Resolve to get a healthy dose of relaxation in 2022, and you’re bound to have a more balanced and productive year.

Delta Dental’s community contributions in 2021

With the challenges and disruptions of the pandemic, 2021 looked very different from many years that came before it. But Delta Dental’s devotion to giving back to the community hasn’t wavered. We’re committed to caring for our dentists, customers and communities, especially during hard times. Here’s how Delta Dental gave back during a challenging 2021.

Preparing for the future

Delta Dental's 2021 giving included $1.5 million to fight food insecurity, $2 million to scholarships and education, $13 million to health centers, $3.5 million to disaster relief and community giving, $400,000 in company matching donations, 25,000 dental kits, 6,000 volunteer hours and $400,000 in employee donations.

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation’s Access to Care Grants totaled more than $12 million in 2021. Dental clinics across the country — from the Kids’ Community Clinic in Burbank, California, to the Ryan Health Center in New York — received these awards to help underserved individuals in our communities get preventive and restorative treatments in accessible locations.

Our scholarships and research grants supported partnerships for education and the development of future dental professionals. Our educational giving included a $700,000 donation to make the CATCH Healthy Smiles oral health program free in schools across the country for children in kindergarten through second grade.  The program is designed to improve the oral health of students by teaching about and encouraging proper toothbrushing and flossing techniques, a nutritious diet and regular visits to a dentist.

Fighting food insecurity and responding to disaster

Forty-two million people may face hunger in the U.S. — including more than 13 million children — because of the pandemic, according to Feeding America. Delta Dental is committed to addressing food insecurity. In 2021, we gave $1.5 million to food banks to help them respond to the challenges of the pandemic and serve communities in need.

This year was also marked by natural disasters, and Delta Dental was there to provide support. Through our Disaster Fund, we continued our longtime partnership with the Red Cross. We also provided support for wildfire recovery in California and helped with recovery from Hurricane Ida in New Orleans through the Greater New Orleans Project and the St. Bernard Project.

Community councils

Delta Dental has four employee-led community councils that provide small grants to causes and events that employees are passionate about. In 2021, we funded a broad range of causes and issues through our community councils, from social justice and education to chronic disease research and education. Local nonprofits received roughly $700,000 from our community councils.

Committed volunteers

Service is a core value at Delta Dental. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, many of our employees volunteered and donated in 2021.

Employees have so far volunteered nearly 6,000 hours and donated nearly $400,000 ― which the company has matched ― to roughly 800 different causes, from animal welfare and conservation to chronic diseases and supporting our troops. Our employees also assembled and helped distribute nearly 25,000 dental kits to those in need including children, adults with chronic health conditions, seniors, veterans and more.

Looking ahead

In 2022, we’ll still face many of the challenges of the previous years. But no matter what lies ahead, we remain committed to providing support for our communities.

COVID-19 by the numbers

The early days of the pandemic brought a tidal wave of changes to the dental industry. As a broker, you know that those shockwaves ripple out to affect your business. Understanding how COVID-19 impacted patients, dentists and the dental insurance industry helps you plan for the future and informs how you can best serve your clients. Let’s take a deep dive into claims data, patient surveys and expert opinions.

The rise of teledentistry

During the early stages of the pandemic in the United States, dental offices were closed to physical appointments for weeks. This led to a massive surge in the popularity of teledentistry services. Synchronous appointments (those with live phone or video interaction between dentists and their patients) saw a 3,000% increase between 2019 and 2020, according to Delta Dental claims during that period. Asynchronous appointments (where patients took photos or videos that were sent to a dentist for later review) saw a 1,000% increase in the same time period.

The use of teledentistry has declined as the pandemic has worn on and dentist offices have reopened, but 2021’s synchronous and asynchronous appointment numbers still remain six times and two times higher than 2019 levels, respectively.

More states also updated their teledentistry laws during the pandemic. Based on Delta Dental’s internal tracking, fourteen states added teledentistry regulations to their laws or expanded existing regulations, including states like Texas that had previously not allowed the practice of teledentistry at all.

Most importantly, in a phone survey of teledentistry patients during the pandemic, patients expressed widespread satisfaction with their options. This aligns with pre-pandemic expectations that patients had about teledentistry, in which 78% of patients surveyed expected to use teledentistry within the next five years. That same group anticipated that working people, children and people with disabilities would benefit the most from teledentistry.

Dentists also had praise for teledentistry, with over 80% of dentists identifying it as useful for improving access to oral care, increasing specialists’ access to rural and underserved communities and as a time-saving technique. Virtual visits may not replace in-person checkups, but they remain a valuable tool for both dentists and patients, and an important consideration for your clients.

Keeping dentists (and you) in business

The beginning of the pandemic was marked by profound economic uncertainty as dental practices closed and people sheltered in place. General practitioner income dropped nearly 18% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Recognizing that without adequate resources dentist offices may be forced to close, Delta Dental was able to assist with loans, reimbursements for personal protective equipment (PPE) costs and free teledentistry tools that allowed dentists to see patients remotely.

Loans offered in partnership with Provide (formerly Lendeavor) allowed dentists to make practice acquisitions, expand to new locations, purchase commercial real estate and equipment, build out their practices and refinance existing practice and commercial real estate debt. These loans featured favorable terms and conditions, such as covered interest for 24 months, deferred payments for 6 months, repayment terms of 10+ years and working capital of up to $200,000.

Delta Dental also offered a supplemental reimbursement for qualifying evaluations and consultations during the second half of 2020. This Return to Care reimbursement led to an additional $80 million for dentists last year to help offset the costs of PPE and office cleanings.

The pandemic saw the rollout of two teledentistry options for Delta Dental members: Delta Dental – Virtual Consult and Toothpic.

  • Virtual Consult is a synchronous service where members can use a smart device to have a live video chat with a Delta Dental dentist.
  • Toothpic is an asynchronous service that allows members to take photos of problem areas and get an assessment from a Delta Dental dentist within 24 hours.

These services are free for members and dentists. Most importantly for your clients, these options expand access to assist patients who may have difficulty making it to in-person visits or prefer a remote appointment.

How patients used their benefits

The early stages of the pandemic saw a drastic decline in the number of patients going to the dentist’s office. One of the main reasons for the decline was that the sharp economic shutdown led to over 20 million Americans losing their jobs (PDF) and their dental coverage as well. Of these 20 million, nearly half found themselves without insurance at all. The remaining jobless got dental coverage through resources like Medicaid.

This decline in visits to the dentist office had a profound effect on patients’ oral health. 

In 2019, the most common procedures according to Delta Dental claims data were either routine preventive care or evaluations for specific issues. This shifted in 2020, when some of the most common procedures were fillings and root planing, which help address the effects of dental neglect.

In addition to the economic hardships COVID-19 brought to patients, COVID also increased mental and emotional strain. Since the pandemic began, the number of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders has risen from about 10% to over 40%.

These symptoms can manifest in jaw clenching and teeth grinding; based on Delta Dental claims data, the number of patients requiring occlusal guards to prevent damage rose nearly 10% in the second half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. 

Anxiety and depression can also worsen an unhealthy diet or substance abuse, which can lead to oral health issues such as cavities. This may also help to explain the surge in fillings and scaling and root planing procedures in 2020.

Health and safety in the dental office

Even though COVID-19 is spread by exhaled aerosolized droplets, visits to the dentist’s office proved safer than visiting any other medical professional during the pandemic. Nearly 100% of dentist offices rapidly adopted enhanced infection control measures like pre-appointment screenings, in-office air purification and antiviral mouthwashes. Once vaccines became available, they saw widespread adoption amongst dentists, even before state and federal mandates. By the second quarter of 2021, over 90% of dentists had received at least one vaccination shot for COVID-19.

Patients also view dentists as valuable sources of information about their overall health in addition to their oral health. Two-thirds of dentists reported receiving questions from patients about the COVID-19 vaccine (PDF), according to the ADA. 

Dentists rose to the occasion, with over 80% reported feeling prepared for these discussions and 95% believing it was important to have such discussions with patients.

What did we learn from COVID-19?

Here are three key takeaways for you and your practice as you look to the future.

  • Encourage group clients to choose plans that truly meet their needs. A “Cadillac” insurance plan can be an attractive proposition for you and your clients, but it may be more coverage than they need. Conversely, in periods of economic uncertainty, individuals may decide that they should forego dental insurance entirely, but this can lead to small issues going untreated and becoming major ones. Helping your group and individual clients identify a plan that fits their needs (and their wallets) early on can go a long way towards keeping them healthy and happy no matter the economic forecast.
  • Foster relationships with individual clients that are about more than just sales. One thing COVID-19 showed was that in the face of uncertainty, people were desperate for answers. As an insurance industry expert, you can be well-suited to advise your clients and help them identify their needs, choose a plan that fits and seek care. Being able to offer advice on wellness and on current topics, such as the safety of vaccines, can go a long way towards building lasting relationships with your clients.
  • Have a resiliency plan in mind in case of an economic downturn.  The pandemic demonstrated that massive disruptions to the way we do business and live our lives aren’t just a possibility but an inevitability. Even if we don’t see another global pandemic within our lifetimes, there will undoubtedly be more localized disruptions from natural disasters like hurricanes, major storms and wildfires. Diversifying your client base (such as by selling to individuals if you currently focus on group clients) can help you to weather periods of economic uncertainty.
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