Analysis: Corporate dental plans - capitalising on the opportunities

With economic concerns putting the ever present issues of cost and usability even higher up firms’ employee benefits agenda, dental schemes are emerging as an option which can deliver on both fronts.

Initial results from Denplan’s latest Dental Benefits Survey, shared exclusively with Health Insurance, show more employers are considering introducing a dental scheme than any other benefit this year, and both providers and intermediaries agree opportunities are rife in this market.

But how can brokers tap into this business potential and turn a low premium product into a lucrative revenue stream?

EMPLOYEE DEMAND

“The feedback we have had is that employers are looking to introduce dental schemes because if they have not been able to offer pay rises they want meaningful employee benefits which they can see staff are using,” says Colin Perry, corporate channel manager at Denplan.

“Dental plans are used on a regular basis, whereas other benefits such as private medical insurance [PMI] will never be used by lots of employees.”

It is a view that intermediaries echo – Ronjit Bose, commercial director for employee benefits at Jelf Employee Benefits, says the firm is looking to expand into this market as dental plans are low cost but highly valued.

“Historically, Jelf has only done dental at a fairly low level as we tend to focus on the core products around PMI,” he says.

“But dental is a market we would really like to explore further and expand in because it is in demand from employees and they value the product very highly.”

Bose adds that market penetration for dental is still relatively low – Denplan’s survey shows 21% of companies currently offer a dental plan – meaning potential business is plentiful.

What is more, Denplan’s research shows that of those firms not currently offering the respective benefit, 32% are considering introducing a dental plan this year. The next most popular options are gym subsidies, critical illness cover and health screening at 20%.

Michelle Rae, product manager at CIGNA Healthcare Benefits, is also keen to emphasise that demand for dental is being driven by employees.

The results of a poll of over 2,000 workers carried out by YouGov on behalf of CIGNA UK, published last month, show that close to a third of employees who are not offered access to a dental plan through their employer would like to be.

“We have done a lot of work looking at consumer attitudes to corporate dental plans, which has given us a good steer on the fact there is definitely demand out there from employees,” says Rae.

“What is going to drive this market forward is demand from the people who are actually using the benefit and so that is where we have focused our efforts.

“We believe there is significant potential for brokers to tap into this market, and to do so successfully they need to get the message across to employers that this is a benefit employees rate very highly.”

And when it comes to which companies intermediaries should be targeting in particular, industry commentators are unanimous in the view that the field is wide open.

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