Supporting health benefits, such as vision and dental coverage, typically come as separate plans offered through different companies than the one that administers your employee health plan. Increasingly, though, employers of all sizes are integrating vision, dental, life, disability, and pharmacy benefit plans in an effort to improve overall care and decrease costs.

Main Benefits of Integration

The primary reason for combining these supporting programs under one plan umbrella is continuity of care. Vision care provides a good example: Say you have an aging employee with signs of glaucoma. An integrated vision plan means efficient communication between the primary care doctor and the vision specialist, ultimately improving preventive care.

Integrated plans may decrease administrative time and overall costs. Instead of five or six companies trying to review patient files, your benefit plan has one administrative team with access to all the necessary paperwork. With improved coordination, you may see a drop in the overall number of benefit claims your plan has to cover, which may translate into savings for your share of the premiums.

Integrating care isn’t just about vision and dental plans. Grouping life insurance and disability insurance plans into your benefits package may, by the same token, translate into decreased costs and increased care quality. For example, if you have to transition an employee to disability coverage, the approval process can be smoother when these benefits are housed under one plan.

Possible Restrictions

Integrating benefit plans, however, comes with some restrictions. You might not be able to buy the “best in breed” vision or dental plan you’ve used for years. Instead, you’ll generally have to take one of the options offered by the health benefits company. Integrated vision and dental care costs might also mean higher out-of-pocket costs for your employees in the form of deductible payments and co-insurance responsibilities. Lastly, not all your employees will want to pay for an integrated plan if they can get separate coverage on a spouse’s or partner’s plan for less.

Integrated health benefits is a valuable means of reducing costs and streamlining care. Do your due diligence on your integrated plan options, however, and carefully consider how this kind of change will impact your employees’ experience with their health care.

This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.

Dylan Murray has an MBA from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Boston University. He is a licensed insurance agent in California, but he works as a professional researcher and writer reporting on business trends in estate law, insurance and private security. Dylan has worked as a script analyst with the Sundance Institute and the Scriptwriters Network in Los Angeles. He lives in San Diego, California, and Marseille, France.