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The Dollars and Sense of Medical-Dental Integration

3 min read

Inflation is motivating business owners and leaders in Arkansas to leave no stone unturned when devising strategies that can help them save money. This effort involves doing more than just cutting costs. Proactively taking steps to avoid unnecessary costs can also help.

There is an undeniable link between oral and overall health. Comprehensive health and dental coverage that promotes preventive dental care through medical-dental integration programs can save businesses and their employees thousands of dollars. These programs have been shown to lower out-of-pocket costs for employers and employees alike and improve overall health and productivity. Oral health-related productivity loss costs employers $30.19 billion annually.

Better health, lower costs

Health insurance providers are becoming increasingly aware of the connection between oral and overall health, and those that offer both health and dental coverage are investing in programs that integrate medical and dental care.

“Because we’re a medical and dental insurance carrier, we were able to establish a medical-dental integration program, Dental Xtra, early on,” said Mark Jansen, vice president and chief medical officer of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “Since we launched the program more than 10 years ago, we’ve seen firsthand that preventive dental care saves businesses and their employees thousands of dollars.”

The importance of these programs can’t be overstated. A Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) report found that 3.7 million BCBSA members experienced dental issues serious enough to generate medical insurance claims in 2016. They were more likely to experience poor health outcomes and incur higher overall costs — spending twice as much on overall health care costs per year compared to those who didn’t suffer from severe dental conditions.

They were also 25% more likely to suffer from heart disease and twice as likely to visit the ER or hospital. Approximately 2.1 million people go to hospital emergency rooms yearly because of oral pain. Despite the high costs associated with these preventable visits, very limited dental care can be provided in these settings.

Fortunately, many oral health-related diseases are preventable and sometimes even reversible. A recent five-year study by the Mayo Clinic, Arkansas Blue Cross, and Life & Specialty Ventures provided proof that people with medical conditions affected by oral health who were enrolled in Dental Xtra were more likely to stay out of the hospital, be healthier, and save money. The program’s benefits helped significantly lower health care costs for people with diabetes or coronary artery disease — two of Arkansas’s most common medical conditions — by as much as 36%.

“Automatic enrollment is the key to the program’s success,” says Jansen. “We identify eligible members based on their medical claims. And we’re diligent in sending them reminders to take advantage of the additional benefits available at no extra cost that can help them stay healthy and avoid preventable medical care.”

The evidence is irrefutable. Employers who offer medical and dental plans from a carrier that integrates them gain a valuable hedge against inflation that promotes better employee health, improves productivity, and yields substantial cost savings.


Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and USAble Life have partnered for more than 40 years to help Arkansas companies offer benefits that make a difference. Click here to learn more about employer benefits.
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