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What You Need to Know About Specialty Benefits

When looking to help save money on health care costs for 2019, you might think about opting out of specialty benefits such as vision, dental or disability during open enrollment. But, there are compelling reasons why you should consider signing up for this type of coverage.


Many people value specialty benefits (also known as ancillary benefits), according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey. The survey showed that 80 percent of people said having vision and dental benefits is “important” during open enrollment.

There is growing evidence linking oral and eye health to overall health, as well as to an array of chronic medical conditions. In addition, new programs that integrate specialty benefits with medical coverage may help lead to healthier outcomes and reduced medical costs.

Consider this information about specialty benefits:

Vision: The eyes are a window to overall health, revealing important information about a person’s well-being. Eye exams can help detect and manage diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and others. People who are aware of and able to successfully manage chronic conditions can help reduce the risk of costly complications and focus on maintaining and improving their health.

Dental: A UnitedHealthcare study examined people with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and their dental care. Those who received appropriate dental care, including preventive services and the treatment of gum disease, had annual net medical costs that were $1,037 lower on average than those who received no dental care.

Financial Protection: Benefits such as disability, accident and critical illness coverage can help provide people with financial protection and additional support following a serious injury or medical event, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke. For instance, some health plans that combine medical and specialty benefits have shown the ability to reduce the duration of disability claims. These benefits offer plan participants improved management, additional support and information, including a case manager and advice on exercise and nutrition. These additional resources mean people may get back to health more quickly.

Hearing Health: Hearing loss is a significant health issue for more than 48 million Americans, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. A growing number of people are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds and the increasing use of earbuds. By preventing or, if necessary, treating hearing loss, people can help reduce their risk of developing a range of physical and mental health issues, including increased risk of falls, social isolation and dementia.

Adding specialty benefits during this fall’s open enrollment may help prevent disease before it starts and, if necessary, assist people with managing their chronic conditions. It can also help provide additional benefits and financial protection.