Oral Health Group

Avoiding smokers and big spenders on dental care


June 27, 2013
by Kahaliah Richards

As healthcare reforms promote more preventive care and associated healthy-seeking behaviour, some controversies emerge. I notice, for example, that American employers in their efforts to control healthcare costs, are taking a look at the extra-burden of an employee who smokes. One study shows that this behaviour imposes an additional $5,800 per year on the employer or the group in which the smoker purchases his/her healthcare coverage.

Some employers already know this and refuse to hire smokers (e.g. the Cleveland Clinic). And some lawmakers are responding to this practice, by making it illegal to discriminate by health-risk behaviour.

But the urgency of employers and groups to reduce healthcare costs could mean that such exclusions, in various forms, may be more widely adopted.  Smokers, diabetics, obese people, those who don’t exercise regularly, those with high cholesterol, and those with “bad teeth” go against the grain of controlling health care costs. Could dental spending become a basis for hiring? Would employers refuse to hire someone who has recurrent decay and needs crowns and then implants on a regular basis? After all, such an employee could be more expensive than a smoker.

While this seems both crazy and unlikely, the big picture here is that the pressing need to control healthcare costs means that it is no longer business as usual – for all of us. The rules are changing and so is the emphasis of group healthcare.

Ask yourself this: why would your employer pay for a crown or an implant when there is a painless preventive treatment which avoids these expenses over the long term?

Or ask yourself this: if you were going to purchase a dental plan for your family (because your employer no longer offered this expensive benefit), what kind of plan would you prefer – one which treats the cause of dental decay when you were at high risk of this common disease, or one which fixed the decayed tooth on a repeat basis?

The answers seem simple and clear.

Source: Ross Perry
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