COVID-19 is shaking up a strong, steady health insurance sector: the dental insurance market.
Amy Friedrich, president of the U.S. insurance solutions division at Principal Financial Group Inc., talked about the impact of the pandemic today, during a conference call with securities analysts that was streamed live on the web.
Federal officials have advised dentists and vision care providers to try to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, by closing their offices, or by providing only emergency care.
The level of dental and vision office closures is unprecedented, Friedrich said.
One of Principal’s goals is simply to help people return to getting normal preventive care, Friedrich said.
But Friedrich warned that getting routine dental care capacity back to normal may take some time, even after the current shelter-in-place rules start to ease.
- A recording of Principal Financial’s earnings call is available here.
- An article about Principal’s latest numbers is available here.
Principal is hearing from its in-network dentists that their offices will have to operate differently, Friedrich said.
Dentists “are saying that they’re going to have to have different cleaning and sanitizing procedures in between patients,” Friedrich said. “They’re going to have to use personal protective equipment maybe differently than they have in the past. And that might change the speed at which they can see patients on a regular basis.”
Pent-up demand for care could end up increasing use of care after June 30, and offset some of the effect of the decrease in dental care and vision care use that Principal is seeing now, Friedrich said.
“But I’m not sure I see that the dental practices can get back to quite the speed they had before,” Friedrich said.
Principal has already announced plans to hold group plans’ renewal rates steady.
“If we continue to see a path that where people can’t utilize our products to get normal care, then we will continue to do things and consider other premium relief,” Friedrich said.
Friedrich spoke during a call that Principal held to go over its first-quarter earnings.