People looking to save money on health care costs might consider skipping specialty benefits such as vision, dental or disability during open enrollment, the time each fall when millions of Americans, including Northwestern Indiana residents, select or switch their health benefits for 2019.
But there are compelling reasons why people should consider obtaining this type of coverage. In fact, many people value specialty benefits (also known as ancillary benefits), with a recent UnitedHealthcare survey showing that 80 percent of people said having vision and dental benefits is “important” during open enrollment.
With growing evidence of a link between oral and eye health to overall health, as well as to an array of chronic medical conditions, having access to specialty benefits may prove valuable. In addition, integrating specialty benefits with medical coverage can help facilitate proactive clinical interventions and consumer-engagement strategies, drawing on a wide range of data to help encourage healthier outcomes and more effectively manage medical costs.
Here is information about specialty benefits that consumers should consider:
Vision: The eyes are a window to overall health, revealing important information about a person’s well-being and, in some cases, helping detect a range of chronic conditions. In fact, eye exams can help detect and manage diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and others. People who are aware of and able to successfully manage chronic conditions can focus on maintaining and improving their health, helping reduce the risk of costly complications and assist them on their journey toward health.
Dental: Oral health plays a significant role in overall health, especially for people with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A UnitedHealthcare study showed that people with certain chronic conditions who received appropriate dental care, including preventive services and the treatment of gum disease, had net medical costs that were on average $1,037 lower per year than those who received no dental care. For example: a person with diabetes and periodontal disease who receives the recommended dental treatments or cleanings is at a lower risk of inflammation, which can help improve diabetes management and avoid costly complications.
Financial Protection: Benefits such as disability, accident and critical illness coverage can help provide people with financial protection and additional support following a serious injury or medical event, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke. For instance, health plans that combine medical and specialty benefits have shown the ability to reduce the duration of disability claims through improved management, offering plan participants additional support and information, including a case manager and exercise and nutrition advice. These additional resources mean people may get back to health more quickly.
Hearing Health: Hearing loss is a significant health issue for more than 48 million Americans, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America, and a growing number of people are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds and the increasing use of earbuds. By preventing or, if necessary, treating hearing loss, people can help reduce their risk of developing a range of physical and mental health issues associated with the condition, including increased risk of falls, social isolation and dementia.
Adding specialty benefits during this fall’s open enrollment can help provide added peace of mind and financial protection, while helping head off disease before it starts and, if necessary, assist people with managing their chronic conditions.
To learn more about UnitedHealthcare’s specialty products, contact your broker or visit www.uhc.com/nwinspecialty.