Cosmetic dental procedures are rising in popularity, but corporate products have been slow to cover these due to their potential to increase premiums, says Kate Donovan
If you read nothing else, read this …
- Only a handful of providers cover cosmetic dentistry treatments for employees.
- Including cosmetic treatments in dental plans may increase premium costs.
- The changes to NHS pricing structures have had a greater impact on what is included in dental plans.
Cosmetic dentistry is currently a market undergoing significant growth to which dental healthcare providers are beginning to adapt. The development of products to accommodate the search for perfect dentition has been helped by the increasing numbers of NHS practitioners moving into the private market.
So far, just a handful of providers cover cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening. Stephen Duff, sales and marketing director at HSF Health Plan, says: “Our plans cover pretty much everything. Where specialist work is required [that] doesn’t matter.”
The majority of dental plans, however, are designed to help employees maintain oral health. Raman Sankaran, director of strategic development at Healthsure and LHF Healthplan, believes that extending products to cover cosmetic procedures could raise prices. “With a lot of the cash plan products we provide, the policy holder will be able to claim against cosmetic or teeth whitening and those kind of areas. However, what we tend to find – to be able to make the products relevant to all – is that the amount that it’s capped at would very often not cover the costs because it would increase the cost of the premium and make it non-competitive,” he explains.
In some cases, providers have increased their reimbursement limits, but stipulate that employees can only claim for treatments which are vital to maintain oral health. Pam Whelan, corporate dental sales manager at Denplan, explains: “We’ve introduced [a plan] which offers up to £2,300 towards routine dentistry. We’ve unrestricted the plan so that [employees] can use it for specialist treatment as long as [that] is deemed necessary to maintain oral health. When it comes to purely cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening, these are still restricted from the plan.”
Market demand is likely to play a key role in providers’ decisions to cover cosmetic procedures in the future. Suzanne Clarkson, head of corporate marketing at HSA, says: “We don’t cover for cosmetic dentistry. It’s difficult to say whether we will in the future. We have no plans right now [as] it all depends on demand. For now, we just cover for maintenance and fillings.”
However, NHS changes, which came into effect last April, are having a greater impact on the corporate dental market. Most dental products now offer employees the option of accessing treatment on the NHS or privately depending on their chosen level of cover.
Cigna Healthcare, for example, has adapted its price bands to accommodate those set by the NHS contract. Kirsty Jagielko, health benefits product manager, says: “We offer a range of cover levels so people can take out the lowest level and use that for NHS or they can use it to make a contribution towards private costs.”
Denplan has also launched a plan to cover employees solely for treatment with NHS dentists. Whelan explains that this is aimed at enabling organisations to ease the pain of sourcing a NHS dentist. “A lot of organisations are coming to us because we’ve got a network of dentists. Where access is an issue, employers are looking to provide access to their employees as well as funding through a plan.”.