Broker blog from Delta Dental

Tag: open enrollment (Page 1 of 2)

8 ways selling got easier than ever this past year

In a year like 2021, it’s easy to lose track of the many updates to Delta Dental plans. From telehealth options to online resources, here are eight features, resources and improvements Delta Dental introduced in 2021 that will make selling in 2022 easier than ever.

1. Teledentistry lets clients use their benefits outside of the dentist office

In 2021, Delta Dental launched not just one but two teledentistry initiatives. Available under Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier® plans, Toothpic and Delta Dental – Virtual Consult let members use their diagnostic and preventive benefits to see Delta Dental dentists remotely at no cost.

Toothpic is perfect for members who just need a quick check-in, and Virtual Consult is meant for members with more serious concerns that may require a prescription for treatment.

2. New videos make understanding networks and plans easier

The world of insurance can be difficult for your clients to navigate. As an industry professional, you know the value of clear and easy-to-understand communication. That’s why we’ve put together videos that you can share with clients to help them understand the differences between plans and the online tools and resources available to them.

3. The Delta Dental Mobile App is getting more features and more user friendly

Delta Dental is relaunching the Delta Dental Mobile App for 2022. The new app is faster and more stable and offers useful features such as member ID cards, dentist search and a cost estimator. It will also be available on both Android and iOS. The old version of the app will be unavailable starting December 20.

4. Delta Dental and VSP are partnering up for paired vision and dental

This year, Delta Dental partnered with VSP to offer vision coverage to Small Business Program (SBP) groups. This coverage is available for groups with as few as two members and as many as 99 and is structured in the same tiers as regular SBP coverage.

5. New open enrollment resources for your clients are available

This past open enrollment season brought multiple new features to help your individual clients and your group clients’ employees understand and make the most of their coverage options. In addition to the videos and teledentistry tools already covered, these resources include a new focus on “virtual” booths for open enrollment periods conducted remotely, quality ratings for dentists and refreshed website and customer service experiences. Speaking of quality ratings…

6. DentaQual ratings help clients find dentists they’ll love

Delta Dental added DentaQual ratings to our dentist directory. Members can use DentaQual ratings to compare dentists based on objective measurements such as procedures success rate, value and patient retention. These ratings offer a simple and transparent solution to the problem of finding a great dentist.

7. Customer service gets reimagined

After two years of development, design and implementation, we rolled out our new customer service initiative, CX Reimagined. CX Reimagined brough an emphasis on soft skills, like empathy, active listening and de-escalation. Since we rolled out the CX Reimagined initiative, more customers than ever before have told us that they’re satisfied with their service and that they’d recommend Delta Dental’s customer service to others. That means that you can feel confident recommending Delta Dental to your clients.

8. Delta Dental’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation was renewed

Delta Dental Insurance Company’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation was 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.


These major updates from 2021 will help you manage your business and sell Delta Dental plans. We’re proud to be your partners in delivering great coverage to your clients. Together we shine, and we’ll see you in 2022!

Note: This post was updated to remove references to the broker rewards dashboard. This feature is being updated and is currently unavailable.

Catch up on selling Affordable Care Act plans

It’s open enrollment season for Affordable Care Act-compliant (ACA) dental plans on Health Care Exchanges (Marketplaces). Here’s what you need to know to sell ACA exchange plans to your individual clients.

Dates to know

  • November 1, 2021: Open enrollment begins.
  • December 15, 2021: Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage that begins on January 1, 2022. (Please note that this date may be subject to extension.)
  • January 1, 2022: Coverage begins for those who enrolled by the December due date and have paid their first premium.
  • January 15, 2022: Last day to enroll in or change plans for 2022 coverage in the following states:
    • Federally Facilitated Marketplace states – AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, KS, LA, MI, MS, MT, OK, OR, TX, UT, VA and WV
    • MD, MN, NV, PA, and WA

After this date, individuals must qualify for a Special Enrollment Period to enroll in a new plan or change their current one.

  • January 30, 2022: Last day to enroll in or change plans for 2022 coverage in the following states:
    • CA, NJ and Washington DC.
  • February 1, 2022: Coverage begins for those who enrolled by the January due date and have paid their first premium.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 expanded ACA access

In March, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Among its other effects, this law will lower premiums this year for most people who currently have a Marketplace health plan and expand access to financial assistance. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a factsheet that breaks down the steps required for your clients to make the most of this expanded access.

The basics of exchanged-based dental plans

All plans offered through public exchanges are available in two forms:

  • Health plans that include dental coverage
  • Stand-alone dental plans

Both stand-alone plans and bundled plans are available as high and low plans.

  • High plans. These plans feature higher monthly premiums but lower coinsurance and deductibles. These plans may be appropriate for clients who anticipate needing extensive care over the course of the year.
  • Low plans. These plans have lower monthly premiums but higher coinsurance and deductibles. These plans have lower fixed monthly costs but higher out-of-pocket expenses for dental care. These plans may be better for clients who are in good dental health and anticipate only needing routine cleanings and exams.

Dental insurance is an essential benefit for children, but not adults

For children 18 and younger, dental coverage is considered an essential benefit. That means that dental coverage must be made available by insurers, either in the form of a stand-alone plan or as part of a bundled health plan. Because dental coverage isn’t an essential health benefit for adults, insurers aren’t required to offer it.

Selling Covered California has some unique aspects

As a public exchange, Covered California has much in common with other exchanges. However, there are some differences that are unique to California. One of the biggest is these is extra certification requirements beyond the ACA-mandated training.

As an insurance broker, you’re required to have additional certification to sell Covered California plans. Beyond the regular licensing requirements to sell insurance in California, you must also complete online course, pass an exam and submit various paperwork to receive certification as a Covered California agent.

Here are some other considerations for selling in California:

  • California permanently adopted an extended open enrollment schedule, running from November 1, 2021 through January 31, 2022.
  • California offers both PPO and HMO plans.
  • Children are granted dental benefits under health plans at no extra cost. Additionally, children under 19 can be added to family dental plans to get coverage of services like fillings and crowns.

Selling individual coverage through ACA-funded exchanges presents some unique challenges, but it can be worth the learning curve to reach otherwise underserved markets and receive the 10% premium per member commission. You can also take pride in knowing that you’re helping those without employer-based coverage gain the security that comes from having dental coverage. If you haven’t already, visit the Delta Dental Health Care Exchange page for brokers to get appointed and learn more.

3 ways to rethink employee benefits communication strategies

During your clients’ open enrollment, they probably receive a flood of questions from their employees about their health benefits. But questions and confusion about benefits don’t begin and end with open enrollment. And for most companies, confusion about benefits is a major problem.

  • Only 39% of employees fully understood their company health insurance policies, according to a recent survey.
  • Nearly 20% said they weren’t sure they understood the benefits they signed up for.
  • Almost half weren’t sure what their annual health coverage costs were.

The same survey found that this confusion about benefits can overwhelm employees, to the point that they often give up trying to understand them.

  • Nearly 20% of surveyed employees said they didn’t do any research before choosing their health benefits.
  • More than 90% said they simply sign up for the same benefits year after year.

As a result, your clients’ employees may be spending too much to over-insure themselves, or conversely might be compromising their health by passing on important benefits to try to cut costs.

This confusion can be bad for their company’s bottom line as well, wasting available benefits and contributing to rising health care costs. In fact, some HR professionals estimate that as much as 40% of their company’s total health care spending is wasted because of employee confusion. That’s a lot.

With is in mind, it might be time to help your clients rethink their benefits communication game.

Benefits communication: It’s not just for open enrollment anymore

Certainly, reaching out to employees about their benefits during open enrollment is always a good idea. But remember that employees also have questions and concerns about benefits throughout the year, and particularly when they have to use them. 

With that in mind, look for opportunities to help your clients educate their employees during key moments:

  • At the beginning of the calendar or plan year, they can remind their employees about new benefits available to them or that their new deductibles and maximums have reset
  • At the end of the calendar or plan year, they can encourage them to use their benefits before their deductibles and maximums reset
  • During the summer, they can suggest that their employees take their kids to the dentist before they return to school
  • When their employees move, or they move their office to a new area, they can offer employees tips on how to find a nearby in-network dentist
  • When their employees experience a qualifying life event, such as getting married or having a baby, they can explain how to add a dependent to their dental plans

Helping their employees help themselves

A single 20-something employee with a pet iguana is going to have very different health care needs than a married 50-year-old with a large family. What they might have in common, though, is their understanding of health care plans and their lingo — next to none.

So rather than simply mailing out printed plan guides that most employees don’t read anyway, suggest resources that target individual employees and their unique needs to help them choose a plan that’s right for them.

  • For example, Delta Dental offers answers to frequently asked questions, which includes information about dental plans, such as the difference between PPO and DHMO-type plans, explanations of networks and orthodontic benefits and many other topics.
  • Delta Dental also offers helpful videos that explain Delta Dental plans, networks and more.

They should also be as transparent as possible with costs. Suggest that they explain specifically how much employees will pay when they enroll in different plans.

Benefits are a two-way street

As your clients strive to better educate their employees about benefits, make sure they don’t miss the opportunity to have their employees educate them as well. Given the chance, employees can provide your clients with valuable information about what they want — and don’t want — in their benefits. Help them give employees multiple forums to share feedback, such as:

  • Q&A sessions
  • Polls
  • Surveys

The questions and comments they receive can help you and your clients tailor their benefits communication strategies by uncovering new issues, such questions about virtual dental care options.

Remember, benefits communication is about more than open enrollment. Building a strong communications strategy is important for the health of both your clients’ employees and companies. By creating effective, personalized and tech-friendly communications, they’ll potentially save money and time, and ensure that their employees get the benefits they want and need.

Open enrollment: Resources and what’s new

Open enrollment can be difficult for your group clients to navigate, but they won’t have to go it alone. Flyers, videos and more are available to help them understand their coverage options, choose the right plans for their needs and make the most of their benefits.

What’s new

In addition to the annual updates to flyers and other material, new initiatives and resources are available for this year’s open enrollment season.

Virtual booths

Your clients who use virtual open enrollment software can get all the benefits of having an in-person Delta Dental representative virtually. With flyers, presentations and a live representative, a virtual booth session is the perfect educational source for employees who can’t make it into the office. (Virtual booth sessions with a live Delta Dental representative require a minimum of 100 attendees.)

Quality ratings for dentists

Choosing the right dentist can be tricky. The new DentaQual rating system provides a simple and objective rating system based on a dentist’s past performance. That makes it easy to find dentists who deliver effective, appropriate and fairly priced service.

Virtual dentistry

Two options are available for clients who are looking for teledentistry tools: Delta Dental – Virtual Consult (PDF) is a video-based app for members to consult with a Delta Dental dentist live, and Toothpic (PDF) is a photo-based app that lets members submit photos of problem areas for professional analysis.

The Cost Estimator and other tools from Delta Dental

Callback assist

When your clients contact Delta Dental’s Customer Service, they can now get a convenient callback instead of having to wait on the line.

A redesigned website

In 2020, we rolled out a whole new design for our website and refreshed its content. This new design makes finding answers easier, whether choosing a plan, understanding benefits or just looking for tips on maintaining a healthy smile. Some helpful pages are:

  • Delta Dental members resource page. Help members plan visits, know what to expect at the dentist’s office and what to do after they complete their visit. There’s also useful information about value-added benefits like virtual dentistry and a wellness library with articles, videos, recipes and more.
  • Delta Dental virtual dentistry page. Understand teledentistry and the differences between Virtual Consult and Toothpic.
  • Smile On. For clients with employees who may be retiring or ineligible for full-time benefits, Smile On is a great way for them to get affordable coverage that meets their needs.

New video content

These videos provide short and direct explanations of Delta Dental’s plans and features. Encourage your clients to share these videos on their websites or intranets. All they need to do is click the videos to navigate to YouTube, click Share > Embed and then copy and paste the code into their webpages or intranet sites. 

These videos also feature Spanish closed captioning. To turn on Spanish captions, click the settings symbol (the cogwheel icon), then click Subtitles/CC and choose Spanish from the list.

Delta Dental PPO™ network

All about the Delta Dental PPO network

Delta Dental PPO and Delta Dental Premier® networks

Get to know Delta Dental’s PPO and Premier networks

DeltaCare® USA 

Welcome to your DeltaCare USA plan

Online resources

Your online resources from Delta Dental

Online resources including the Cost Estimator

The Cost Estimator and other tools from Delta Dental

Flyers

For clients who are interested in an in-depth look at some of our value-added features, these flyers offer additional information.

Additionally, you may find the open enrollment benefits resources page useful for yourself or to share with clients. This page includes flyers that can be printed and shared with prospective Delta Dental members and current members. These flyers cover:

  • Plan basics
  • Using a Delta Dental plan
  • Understanding dentist networks
  • Accessing online resources
  • Orthodontic coverage (braces)
  • Individual coverage
  • Value-added features

Open enrollment doesn’t need to be a challenge. These online resources make it easier than ever before for prospective Delta Dental members to choose the right plan and make the most of their benefits!

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.

Policy pops: Health care exchanges — 2019 enrollment results

3‑minute read

Join our guest blogger, Devin McBrayer, as she reviews the outcomes of the 2019 open enrollment period for health care exchanges. Devin is a Legislative and Policy Analyst based in Sacramento, California.

The open enrollment period to purchase Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant individual health insurance coverage off the health insurance exchanges for 2019 has come to an end. Sign-ups were off to a slow start at the beginning of the enrollment period, leaving many experts fearful that ACA plans would experience a significant decrease in enrollment. However, total enrollment only decreased by about 3.8% nationwide on Healthcare.gov, much of this due to a 15% reduction in new sign-ups. 

While the total enrollment drop in individual health insurance plans on the exchange may have been less drastic than expected, it is still worth exploring why new enrollment decreased considerably and why year-to-year enrollment continues to decline. Several 2018 policy changes, combined with a growing economy, could help explain the decrease in enrollment in ACA plans for the 2019 plan year. 

Are policy changes to blame?

In 2018, Congress reduced the tax penalty for not having an ACA-compliant health insurance plan to zero, effectively eliminating it. The federal government also shortened the open enrollment period and reduced marketing for open enrollment. Simultaneously, the federal government passed several rules that expanded the availability of cheaper and less comprehensive insurance plans such as short-term limited duration plans. No tax penalty for lack of coverage, combined with a shorter sign-up period and more plan options outside the exchanges, may help explain the enrollment decrease.

The impact of the economy

Another possible explanation for the drop in enrollment could be attributed to an improving economy. When open enrollment started on November 1, 2018, 2 million more jobs were added to the economy than were added at the same time in 2017. As more people head back to work, it’s possible that they’re gaining access to employer-sponsored health insurance, eliminating the need to renew their ACA plan. 

What does this mean for dental?

Any loss in enrollment for medical coverage also means less people enrolled in dental coverage on the exchange. (As a reminder, dental coverage is an essential health benefit for children but not for adults.) 

In the exchanges, dental coverage is included in some health plans or consumers can get a stand-alone dental plan and pay a separate premium. However, there is no way for consumers to purchase a stand-alone dental plan without also purchasing a medical plan on the health care exchange. Pushing for states and the federal government to allow for the independent purchase of stand-alone dental plans on state and federal health insurance exchanges is a top priority for the Public & Government Affairs team at Delta Dental.

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