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Online estimator tools clarify costs of dental services, help consumers make informed decisions

March 9, 2016
Dental patients may be scared away from treatment because they fear unexpected or higher-than-predicted costs. Now you can tell your patients about this new service that offers them a way to figure out costs before they visit.

Editor’s Note: Dentists are oftens looking for ways to assist their patients financially. This might be hard when the fear of extra costs is keeping many people away from their preventive dental treatment. Dental Care Cost Estimator offers a solution.

A recent Anthem survey* found only 50% of people surveyed visit their dentist twice a year as recommended. The reason? Many are simply not aware what their dental insurance covers beyond preventive care. In fact, it seems that a fear of surprise costs might be the setback. Many feel they’ll receive an unexpected bill at the end of their appointment, or that the dentist will find an expensive problem.

Findings from this survey show that a lack of transparency about the cost may be what’s holding Americans back from getting preventive dental treatments, with seven in 10 people feeling that the bill at the end of the dentist appointment is more painful than the treatment. In fact, two-thirds of Americans feel like a visit to the dentist costs more than they initially expected, and this is even truer for those whose household income is under $50,000.

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Calculating costs
In response to these consumer concerns, Anthem Dental has launched the Dental Care Cost Estimator, a web-based tool that provides estimates for common dental procedures and treatments, and a dental health assessment. These promote better understanding of oral health and help predict the risk of developing tooth decay, gum disease, tooth wear, and oral cancer. The hope is that these tools will give consumers the ability to make more informed health care decisions and maintain good oral health, and help ease the trepidation they feel about dental appointments.

These tools are now available to members of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Anthem Blue Cross, and Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield members.

Reminding consumers about the importance of dental care
Consumers should be reminded that visiting the dentist is an investment in maintaining overall health. Visiting the dentist at least twice a year can call attention to other health problems. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, 90% of diseases show signs and symptoms in the mouth, and a regular checkup can reveal an underlying health problem that might be more easily treated with early detection.

With this in mind, Anthem Dental also leverages the Anthem Whole Health Connection, which connects the dots between oral health and overall health and increases communication between the member’s dentist and other physicians. For example, a dental checkup may reveal signs of a serious disease such as diabetes. This information is accessible by the member’s other doctors. Only Anthem Dental offers this integrated approach, which results in better, more comprehensive care.

Though costs can be a sticking point for many consumers, it’s important to remember that regular dental care is a key component of overall health. With new tools available, costs can be easily predicted to make dental care more accessible.

*Findings of a national online omnibus survey using the field services of Russell Research, from December 11-14, 2015. The margin of error for the sample of 1,050 is +/- 3.1 % at the 95% confidence level. This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results (within 3.1 percentage points) 95 times out of 100.

Mike Malouf is president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Dental and is responsible for financial performance, membership, product development, operations, underwriting, network development, and strategy. Mike’s experience includes serving as president of a large insurance consulting firm in Chicago, and CEO of one of the largest dental network and dental benefits providers in the country.