With rising costs affecting everyone, Arkansans are exploring every opportunity to save money. Findings from a recently published study offer a surprising yet viable means of doing so. Researchers found that preventive dental care can save businesses and their employees thousands of dollars.
The best way to realize maximum cost savings when it comes to health insurance is to minimize the number of medical claims filed. This reduces out-of-pocket costs for employees as well as the medical claims experience for the group. That’s why many companies now offer their employees access to proactive health initiatives like wellness programs.
The mouth-body health connection
Most people don’t look forward to going to the dentist, but an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure. Regular dental checkups can prevent more serious (and costly) dental issues from occurring as well as potential impacts to existing medical conditions.
A five-year study undertaken by the Mayo Clinic, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Life & Specialty Ventures, provides proof that good oral health habits can help you stay out of the hospital, be healthier, and save money, especially if you have a condition that’s affected by oral health. Specifically, the study found that preventive dental care significantly lowered health care costs for people with diabetes or coronary artery disease (CAD) — two of Arkansas’ most common medical conditions.
“While the medical-dental connection is now better understood, until recently, scientific proof that improved dental health led to a reduction in the severity and cost of treatment for common illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease was lacking,” said Mark Jansen, vice president and chief medical officer of Arkansas Blue Cross. “This study was the first to quantify the impact of adherence to preventive dental care on healthcare costs.”
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reviewed five years of clinical and cost data associated with Arkansas Blue Cross’ medical-dental integration program, Dental Xtra, which automatically enrolls members with eligible conditions and provides additional care at no extra cost. The program identifies individuals with common medical conditions affected by oral health and provides them with enhanced dental cleanings and additional preventive dentistry. Care management teams also remind members to take advantage of the additional benefits available through the program. This automatic enrollment and proactive outreach are key to removing potential barriers to participation in the program.
The dollars and sense of preventive dental care
The Mayo study found that health plans can reduce costs between $500 and $1,700 per person. The importance of making dental wellness a priority is magnified by the fact that The Natural State currently ranks 49th in the U.S. for dental wellness.
Another recent study found that approximately 2.1 million people go to hospital emergency rooms because of oral pain. Despite the high costs associated with these preventable visits, very limited dental care can be provided in these settings. Loss of productivity is another factor. Oral health-related productivity loss costs employers $30.19 billion annually.
The value of medical-dental integration programs will only increase with time, especially as the American College of Cardiology anticipates that there will be a steep rise in cardiovascular disease for the foreseeable future. Also, the number of people with diabetes is predicted to increase by 129% by 2045, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
By choosing medical and dental plans from a carrier that integrates them, employers can promote better health, improve productivity, and realize substantial cost savings.