Dental cover opens wide: Private insurance plans are thriving as dentists turn away from the NHS

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PRIVATE dental insurance is flourishing as more and more practices turn their backs on the National Health Service.

This week's launch of a new dental scheme by Norwich Union and the move by Bupa earlier this month to make its scheme available nationwide mean there are now more than a dozen dental insurance schemes, which offer different deals at different rates.

Nearly a third of the 27,000 dentists in the UK will either not do any NHS work at all or will not take on any new NHS patients, leaving the public to pay more for basic dental treatment. Free treatment is also only available to certain people, such as pregnant women and the unemployed. All others must pay 80 per cent of the cost.

The expense varies from area to area. Under the NHS, a clinical examination costs pounds 4.75, while privately it can be up to pounds 20; a filling under the NHS is pounds 5, and up to pounds 20 again privately. For more complicated treatment, the differential is even greater. A standard NHS crown costs pounds 50, while private costs range from pounds 120 to pounds 250.

Dental plans fall into two categories. The first is a straightforward insurance scheme, under which policyholders receive benefits up to a certain amount for a monthly premium. The second is a capitation plan, in which the scheme provider agrees with a number of dentists to provide benefits for a fixed fee, again for a monthly premium.

Tim Baker, commercial director at Norwich Union Healthcare, said he prefers the second type because there will be no incentive for the dentist to carry out unnecessary treatment. 'Under the Norwich Union scheme there is no incentive to over-provide. In America, premiums have risen dramatically because of this effect.'

NU has joined up with the US healthcare provider MIDA Dental Plans to create Dental Care. This offers three levels of cover, and patients do not have to have their teeth assessed before joining the plan. Premiums range from under pounds 6 to pounds 12 a month, depending on the level of cover and the location of the practice. Only dentists registered with NU Healthcare can be used.

Mr Baker said: 'Our aim through Dental Care is to get the customer dentally fit and to maintain that fitness.'

The first level covers dental examinations and consultations, X-rays, polishing and worldwide emergency cover. The second also includes fillings and extractions, and the third level includes root canal fillings and clinically required crowns.

At the moment, the plan most people will be offered by their dentist is Denplan, which was recently taken over by PPP, the healthcare provider. Denplan is a capitation scheme and has 470,000 subscribers in the UK. It offers five levels of cover from pounds 5 to pounds 15 a month.

WPA launched its insurance scheme last year. For pounds 5.90 a month, routine dental visits are covered, and there is pounds 10 towards a filling and pounds 18 for a hygienist. It will also pay pounds 15,000 towards the treatment of serious dental problems, such as cancer, and covers dental injury.

David Ashdown, WPA's marketing director, said the company opted for the more conventional type of insurance because it was easier to understand. 'We have had tremendous interest in the plan since it was launched last year.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- PRIVATE DENTAL SCHEMES ----------------------------------------------------------------- Scheme Phone Cigna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 071 488 2323 Clinicare . . . . . . . . . . . . 0438 747733 Complete Direct Care . . . . . . .081 484 1028/081 848 1044 Dental Health Plan - PPP . . . . .0892 512345 Denplan . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0962 866662 Smile . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0734 758777 Strasbourgeoise Freechoice Plan. .071 259 5260 National Dental Plan . . . . . . .071 480 7201 Hospital Savings Association . . .0264 353211 Mida . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .071 626 2221/2223 Densure . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0255 221001 Unity Health Care . . . . . . . . 061 832 9361 Norwich Union Health Cover . . . .0800 142142 WPA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0823 623385 Bupa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0800 230 230 -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph omitted)

Comments