Rethinking Employee Benefits After COVID-19

two coworkers elbow bumping at work because of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic damaged every part of life. From families dealing with personal tragedy to struggling local economies, this virus impacted every person and every industry in some way.

But as vaccines and disease management rules roll out, company leaders are starting to think about return-to-work plans. For business owners in Arizona, the short-term outlook varies by industry—but almost one year into this pandemic the initial shock has started to wear off. Now many businesses want to get out of “battle mode” and think about how to lead their companies and employees forward with a new sense of health and security.

One-way employers can rebuild post COVID-19 and begin to return to “normal” is by asking questions about the most effective way to offer the best benefits to their employees going forward. This means taking a hard look at benefits utilization, headcounts and permanent changes to employment policies.

Take advantage of educational tools to keep utilization up

During open enrollment, employees have a lot of questions about using their benefits, and that’s great. But we want to help employers talk about the benefits of using dental benefits all year long.

“We have a mountain of electronic communication pieces available. Employers and brokers don’t need to start from scratch when trying to build an online library of informational content,” said Heather Mollon, senior director of client relationships with Delta Dental of Arizona.

Did you know that Delta Dental’s underwriting and sales teams work closely together to offer reporting and analytics for mid to large companies? This reporting makes it easy for employers to understand how their employees are using dental benefits. For larger companies with over 200 employees, underwriting puts together a custom reporting package with key data points to help company leaders make important decisions about their dental plans.

Similarly, for mid-sized companies with over 100 employees, we provide a Healthentic Dental Action Report that offers actionable insights around employee behavior. This includes the percentage of employees visiting the dentist, the services employees are using and the costs of not visiting the dentist. Account executives work closely with benefits administrators and their brokers to identify opportunities for improving oral health.

We know that healthy behaviors reduce costs, which is why we give employers online tools to keep the preventive care conversation ongoing. Here are some of the free tools benefits administrators can take advantage of:

  • The Delta Dental of Arizona Blog – Here you’ll find a library of oral health tips, dental insurance information and mouth-healthy recipes to share via newsletters, social media and more. Educating folks with fun, engaging articles is a great way to help them make their oral health a priority and to encourage them to use their dental benefits.
  • Employer-Friendly White Papers – Every year, Americans lose more than 164 million hours of work from dental disease, costing companies money.¹ Our educational white papers offer employers insurance industry information, like this quick stat, in an easy-to-understand way.
  • Oral Health Webinars – Our Healthy Smiles at Work™ webinar series is available 24/7 and educates employees about various oral health risks and ways to adopt healthy behaviors at work and at home.

Rely on industry experts for advice

Many employers were forced to reduce their workforce due to COVID-19, and shrinking headcounts may have an unforeseen impact on your insurance premiums.

“As a general strategy, employers should ask themselves, ‘Have we changed? Are we still the same company we were one year ago?’” said Eric Skartveit, senior director of underwriting at Delta Dental of Arizona.

Here are some other questions employers should think about as they review renewal rates or mull over what benefits to offer moving forward:

  • If you’ve recently lost employees, who did you lose? Was it a younger or older workforce? Different age groups have different sets of oral health care needs and expectations.
  • Who are your competitors? Do you now find yourself the big fish in a small pond? Or vice versa? The kind of benefits you offer are more important because you need to attract and retain talent against new competition.

This is an area in which you can lean on Delta Dental of Arizona for help. Our account management team represents some of the best and brightest insurance experts in the state. They work closely with HR professionals, benefits administrators, small business owners and brokers to ensure our clients (that’s you!) continue to have access to affordable dental and vision plans.

They’re also your partner in helping you manage your plan efficiently, so don’t be afraid to leverage their expertise! (Those reporting tools we mentioned earlier come in handy here too—and your account executive can help you make sense of them if you have questions.)

Think about changing employment policies

We’re not out of the woods yet in terms of physical or social distancing, which means many workers will remain remote for the foreseeable future.

“One of the advantages of working remotely is schedule flexibility,” said Mollon. “While this can certainly benefit the employer, employees can also capitalize on how this can be to their advantage.”

For example, some people who previously had to submit a request for time-off to visit the dentist may no longer need to use PTO to make preventive care a priority.

If employers need to add alternate scheduling options like split shifts or varied shifts because of industry changes, it can be a good time to think candidly about their employee’s needs. A place where employees feel empowered to use their break time to take advantage of important health services—like dental checkups, wellness visits or counseling sessions—saves money and improves morale.

“It’s no longer taboo to use your employee downtime to use your health benefits,” added Mollon.

 

 

 

 

¹Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/datastatistics/surgeongeneral/report/executivesummary.htm

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