Initially Cigna HealthCare Benefits is making the new feature available to policyholders in London, where prices are particularly high.
Premiums for the Dentacare plan vary depending on the size of the scheme and whether the funding is company paid or employee paid. Level 3 starts at £15.20 per month, while level 4 starts at £23.64 per month.
Meanwhile Engage Mutual Assurance has turned the concept of the traditional cash plan on its head to address the problem of cost uncertainty. Its product One Fund, which has been on the market for around a year, gives employees access to a annual fund, which can be spent on a number of different treatments and benefits including dental care. In addition to monthly premiums Engage Mutual Assurance asks for a £40 excess payment per benefit each year. This ensures that there is enough money in the pot to fund higher cost treatments relating to a particular treatment or benefit, rather than exceeding a capped amount and having to make up the shortfall. A monthly premium of £10 would give an employee an annual fund of £720.
David Castling, commercial sales manager at Engage Mutual Assurance, says: “We give the member of staff a fund of money per year and they still have a menu of treatments that they can access, but they could - if they want to - decide to spend the entire fund of money on one area.
“What we found is that most people are willing to fund the cost of a dental check up and they can afford £40. We are aimed at the white collar workforce and £40 doesn’t really make a big impact to your wage. But if you were suddenly landed with a £400 bill that you weren’t expecting then that has more of an impact, so we wanted a plan that would really cater for substantial treatment as opposed to just a check up and scale and polish.”
Health Shield's cash plans, meanwhile, have been designed to reflect the difficulties some people have in getting dental treatment on the NHS. If a Health Shield member's dentist goes private, they can either claim back private treatment costs or the dental practice plan premium - in 2013, reimbursements will be up to £285.
Lara Rendell, marketing manager at Health Shield, says: “It is all very well in you have an NHS dentist, but there are more and more private dentists now and people need to pay for it somehow.”
It is also common for providers to ensure that they provide cover for more serious dental procedures. For example, higher reimbursements will be paid out in the event of dental trauma caused by a car accident or sports injury.
Paul Shires, executive director of sales and marketing at cash plan provider Westfield Health, says: “We introduced a dental trauma benefit across the vast majority of our plans for people that have an accident or injury to their teeth.”