Historically, employers have offered medical plans separately from any dental, vision and disability coverage. They often use different carriers for each type of plan. While this may have made sense in the past, forward-thinking employers increasingly see the advantages of offering a full spectrum of benefits from a single carrier. This new, more integrated approach follows the modern view of holistic, coordinated prevention and care as the best approach for their employees’ health.
Dental insurance used to be seen as a nice perk, reimbursing for routine services, such as cleanings, X-rays and fillings, that most employees could easily pay for out of pocket. However, the medical community now understands that oral health is directly connected to serious and costly medical conditions, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as the Mayo Clinic explains. Regular dental care can help prevent and manage these diseases. With an integrated offering, medical plans can provide education on the link between oral health and overall health, and plans can leverage care management programs to coordinate between dentists and primary care physicians.
Vision coverage is often an afterthought when it comes to benefits. Many think of it as something only patients needing glasses or contact lenses would choose, but eye care professionals can detect a variety of illnesses and monitor the progress of others, according to the University of Illinois College of Medicine. An eye exam can help identify conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, sickle cell anemia and inflammatory bowel disease. Eye care providers can monitor the progression of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other chronic ailments. When vision care and health insurance are administered by the same insurer, providers can coordinate with physician offices on medical follow-up.
Disability insurance is still mainly viewed as a financial cushion for employees in case they become unable to work. These days, however, it’s apparent that many disabilities are caused by lack of management of chronic medical conditions, as shown by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employees who keep their diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and other chronic diseases under control are much less likely to need to use their disability insurance, and those employees who do leave work due to a disability have a higher chance of returning if they can get their medical conditions under control. Care management programs offered by health plans can help.
Health, dental, vision and disability insurance don’t exist in a vacuum. In fact, they are inextricably linked. Employers, employees and dependents benefit when these programs are bundled together.
David E. Williams is president of Health Business Group, a strategy consulting firm serving clients in technology-enabled health care services, pharmaceuticals, biotech, medical devices and software. He is frequently quoted in the media on the business of health care and is the author of the Health Business Blog. David sits on the board of both private health care companies and nonprofits.