© Copyright ClearPath Benefits

Ancillary Plans Get a New Spin

Originally posted June 9, 2014 by Amber Taufen on https://www.benefitspro.com

Employers struggling with new mandates for basic health care programs probably don’t even want to think about offering their employees ancillary benefits like vision and dental insurance.

However, as many experts have noted, these two particular ancillary benefits can save employers money in the long run because regular dental and vision screenings can detect some chronic health conditions early.

Employer-provided flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts can be one alternative option to traditional health and dental insurance, but sometimes employees have difficulty understanding the parameters of these programs, or can’t find affordable out-of-pocket care on their own. So many employers are turning to alternative ways to provide vision and dental coverage to their employees – new, innovative methods of coverage that provide both flexibility and cost-savings. And the biggest trends all revolve around cost transparency and empowering employees to make educated care decisions.

Jason Szczuka, general manager of Brighter PRO, says that his tech company has helped fill a need for more cost-effective employee dental coverage – a need he says will definitely continue to grow.

“Traditional dental insurance does not work for employers and employees as a cost-effective benefit offering,” Szczuka says. “And there’s been zero innovation in this industry for the past 20 years. However, by leveraging newer technologies, our platform aligns the interests of patients, providers, and payers alike to lower claims costs through new efficiencies in benefits payments, network fee schedules, utilization review and group plan designs.”

Although the Brighter PRO set-up looks somewhat similar to a traditional preferred provider organization insurance plan, it’s actually a cost-transparency technology resource that creates new efficiencies to create lower overall dental costs.

Brighter PRO maximizes the savings it generates through a transparent online marketplace so members can easily shop for providers based on price and quality, while participating providers can compete for more patients by improving their prices and quality scores, and payers can lower their claims by optimizing how and where members use their benefits.

“We’ve built the technology that helps transform health care consumers into health care shoppers,” Szczuka says. “They can compare dentists side-by-side on cost, quality and convenience. Schedule their appointment online 24/7. And when the appointment is over, the user’s electronic dental record is updated so they can more easily and affordable maintain their oral health.”

Derek Moore, a senior benefits consultant with Leavitt Group, says his clients have appreciated the addition of Brighter PRO to his portfolio of benefit offerings.

“Some of my clients are saving 70 percent on their premiums for something they can do online – if you have a computer or a phone, you can use this service,” he notes. “Everything in today’s market seems to be quick, so it was only a matter of time before these technological innovations made its way into health care.”

Gene Erdman, director of human resources for the Southern California Pizza Co., likes the program because he’s able to offer a dental benefit for all of his employees – including his part-time workers.

“The adjustability and flexibility offered with a service like this fits our employee base very well,” he notes. “Our workforce skews toward millennials, and the concept of them being able to shop and price and make a decision about a care provider from data they can access from their iPad or phone or computer and really individualize that decision is significant for us.”

A clearer vision

And while companies like Brighter PRO look at new ways to provide dental coverage options for employers, other companies like Careington address the vision component of ancillary benefits.

“We’re a discount plan, and we’ve developed a somewhat exclusive network with vision carriers,” explains Greg Rudisill, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at Careington. “Many times, we can go into a big group and bundle all of these carrier networks together so that our members have the broadest access available.”

Rudisill notes that many Careington clients use the service in conjunction with FSAs or HSAs to help their employees manage their vision needs.

“Everything is very transparent, so the member can see what it would cost them for different services before they go in. If they know what it’s going to cost them in advance, they can set aside that specific aside of money in their FSA. And there are no claims to file, so providers love it because they don’t have to do a lot of administrative work like they would with an insurance plan.”

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is building our market for us,” Szczuka says, “because, although the need for dental coverage has been around for a while, the adult dental gap is going to continue to grow as the premium-to-benefit value of traditional dental insurance erodes even more quickly than it already has been.”

And if those trends continue in the ancillary world, employers will increasingly seek new, innovative methods to provide health care value to their employees.