Dental Premium Costs Subside

April 28, 2004 ( medical premiums have greatly increased from 2001 levels, annual increases in dental premiums appear to have subsided, never reaching the double digit increases so common in medical costs.

The two most popular designs for dental plans, fee-for-service and preferred-provider organizations (PPOs), have seen a decline in average annual cost increases since 2001; but, dental health maintenance organizations (DHMOs), the highest degree of dental plan managed care, have had a slight rise in costs over the last two years.

The average dental-benefit cost will increase by about 6.8% in 2004, compared with an increase of 7.6% in 2001, according to a report by Mercer Consulting. Another report, from the National Association of Dental Plans, give a specific cost, predicting that fee-for-service family coverage from a medium-size employer will cost about $5.75 more per month, compared with last year.

Employees say a dental plan is their second favorite benefit next to medical, and its pricing stability might make plan sponsors more obliged to offer the dental plan benefit.