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Brush up on dental benefits: DR plans growing

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Issue: Direct reimbursement (DR) dental plans are becoming more popular.

Benefit: DR plans can slash your dental-plan admin costs. You can even eliminate the middleman and run the plan yourself.

Action: Re-evaluate your dental plan and weigh cost/benefits of DR plans.

Many smaller organizations don't offer dental plans, largely due to the high cost and administrative hassles. But an increasingly popular dental benefit option, direct reimbursement (DR) plans, can help solve both of those problems.

Unlike traditional dental plans, employees pay no deductibles and no premiums with DR plans. They simply visit the dentist of their choice, pay the bill and then submit the invoice to you or the dental-plan administrator for reimbursement.

Benefits are based on dollars spent, not the type of treatment. For example, employees would be reimbursed 100 percent of their first $100 of dental expenses, 80 percent of their next $500 in expenses and 50 percent of their next $1,000 to $3,000 in expenses. Employers typically cap reimbursements per employee or family at somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 per year.

Example: International Environmental Associates (IEA), a Houston consulting firm with 17 employees, switched to a DR plan and saved 58 percent in total dental care costs its first year. One reason: IEA has many younger employees who rarely visit the dentist, so the company didn't have to pay premiums for workers who never used the coverage.

The American Dental Association offers more information on DR plans at or (800) 232-7698.

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