Shelley Grandidge is the owner of Southwest Health Options, an Arizona-based company that sells Medicare, health, and dental coverage for individuals, families, and businesses.
With Grandidge being in the business of helping customers obtain insurance, I thought it would be interesting to ask her for her perspective on what she saw in terms of dental insurance trends in her business during COVID-19, as well as how business has been since dental practices began to reopen. I also wanted to ask her for her predictions on dental insurance usage for the rest of 2020.
Q: So what trends have you seen when it comes to dental insurance in the first half of the year, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic playing such a big role in our society?
A: I am a Medicare specialist, but about half of my business is for people under 65 and people of all ages need dental insurance. When the COVID stay-at-home order happened, I think people were just paralyzed with fear. I mean, for a couple of weeks, nothing happened at all. It didn't matter what kind of insurance it was, people weren't buying. However, I believe our business is pretty recession-proof and, sure enough, after that first couple of weeks, business began to pick back up again.
Q: How do you discuss dental insurance with your clients?
A: Nobody likes to get a surprise bill, so I explain that dental insurance is an investment. I get a regular stream of calls where people are like, "Oh, well, I just went to the dentist, and I need to have XYZ done." I then have to explain that 99% of the dental plans I sell have waiting periods. Many people are surprised to hear that, so there's a lot of misunderstanding out there about how dental insurance really works.
I think if dental practices could make it a priority to educate the patient on dental insurance from the first time he or she calls the practice, it could make a big difference in avoiding a potential misunderstanding. Obviously, dental practices educate the patient on the benefits of good oral hygiene, but there's more to a visit to the practice than just that.
Q: What's your feeling on insurance versus an in-office membership plan?
A: Well, again, it comes down to education. I know a lot of dental offices do membership plans. But in my experience, it's more of a discount plan and it's not really insurance. I think it's important for patient to understand the difference between insurance and a membership plan and not to confuse the two.
Q: Are you seeing dental insurance business pick back up?
A: It started a little bit, then paused. Now it's starting again because people are losing their health and dental insurance with unemployment. I do expect more and more calls as we get deeper into the second half of the year.
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