Meet the Team Behind the Teeth: Q-&-A with Eric Skartveit, Director of Underwriting at Delta Dental of Arizona

Head shot of the Director of underwriting at Delta Dental of Arizona looking forward at the camera.

Underwriters have complicated jobs. They’re responsible for assessing risk, and that’s a pretty big deal for most companies. We sat down with our own director of underwriting, Eric Skartveit—who has almost 30 years-experience in the industry—to learn more about the challenges he faces and the things that go into underwriting a plan.

JA: In a nutshell, talk a little bit about what an underwriter does.

ES: Basically, we’re trying to manage risk and profitability for the company. This includes analyzing market trends, networks, competitors and utilization. Ultimately, we’re trying to set insurance rates that are competitive in the marketplace, affordable to our valued clients and support our company and Foundation.

JA: How did you find your way into this industry?

ES: I had a B.S. in math, and the college I went to reached out and said an insurance company was hiring a class of underwriters and asked if I would be interested in talking to them. After two interviews, I was hired as a large group underwriter for that company. I was trained in all lines of coverage, including medical, dental, life and disability and short-term and long-term disability. This is what I’ve been doing ever since.

JA: Can you tell me more about how you determine pricing?

ES: Whenever possible, we prefer to see a group’s actual utilization, which we call their ”experience.” We analyze their experience, project it into our network with our discounts, and then really begin to develop a competitive price from there.  

JA: What are the trends you’re seeing in benefits coverage?

ES: We’re looking at trends of different populations of people and their needs. Baby boomers are aging out of group benefits, so we’re seeing them purchase a lot of individual plans. Younger populations are coming in that have different buying practices and needs, so they desire a different experience. We think a lot about our members and how we can consistently deliver a great product that covers their needs at an affordable cost while also providing a positive experience.

JA: What’s something unique about your role that most people might not know?

ES: Here at Delta Dental, I’m much more integrated into our entire dental benefits practice. I’m not just working on the financials or the underwriting of a group. My team works closely with sales, collaborates on strategic plans, supports small group benefit operations and provides analytical support to other departments, such as professional relations. I have a lot broader job scope than just “underwriting.” My job touches a lot of different departments each day and this makes every day unique and challenging.

JA: What challenges you every day?

ES: I’ve been in the industry almost 30 years. Whether it’s been on the carrier side or consulting side, when you sit back and think about the lives you touch, it’s quite impactful. Helping people get insurance and helping them take care of themselves physically while supporting their financial needs—it’s a big endeavor. For me personally, this aligns very closely with Delta Dental of Arizona’s mission to improve lives by promoting optimal oral health.

The people here are fantastic. I also enjoy the combination of the breadth and depth of the work that we get to do daily. It’s both challenging and rewarding.

JA: How do you show your Smile PowerTM?

ES: I went with my son, Cody, to deliver toys to foster families during our holiday toy drive. There have been volunteer opportunities here that are different from some of the ways I might have volunteered before and I really like having the chance to volunteer for great family-oriented and oral health causes.

JA: Have you lived in Arizona a long time? What do you love about it?

ES: My wife, Barb, and I moved here in 2000 from Chicago. We love it! We like the fact that it’s an outdoor and sports-friendly place. We enjoy the chance to watch both youth and professional baseball. And I play a fair amount of golf!

JA: Would you ever use bacon-flavored floss?

ES: Only after breakfast.

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