- Employers who encourage workers to take advantage of preventive dental services save money in the long run, a report by Guardian Life Insurance Company of America shows. According to the Guardian's fifth annual study, "Dental Benefits: A Bridge to Oral Health & Wellness," employees who regularly use preventive dental services have fewer claims for restorative dental procedures, which lowers their out-of-pocket costs as well as employers' premiums for group coverage.
- The study found that although high use of preventive services cost 39% more than low preventive use during a six-year period, employers spent 86% less on major restorative services. Preventive dental care nets 16% lower costs for both preventive and major dental expenses than under-used preventive services.
- Guardian recommends that employers encourage preventive dental services by expanding their plan's description of preventive services, incentivizing use of in-network service providers and improving the way benefits are communicated to employees.
The shift in healthcare overall from treatment to preventive services has lowered costs for employers and workers. By regularly having routine check-ups, employees can find out if they need treatment before a health condition worsens or before surgery becomes necessary, perhaps helping steer workers towards less costlier outcomes.
Employer-sponsored wellness programs focus on prevention. Participants are encouraged to undergo lifestyle changes to address preventable health conditions. Improving eating habits, adopting physical fitness routines, joining smoking cessation programs and managing back pain are activities for sustaining good health.
A new wellness program research study contends that in a sample program's first year, there were no significant improvements in participants' health, cost savings or productivity. One reason given was that program participants were already healthier than nonparticipants to begin with and had lower medical costs. The challenge for employers is to get more participants in their programs through better communication and to expand their offerings to include more of the well-being options employees say they want, such as financial literacy education or mental health services.