Dental insurance is a bad bargain. This has been confirmed by recent research from the American Dental Association showing that most Americans will pay more for their dental care if they have insurance than if they don’t. Most people under the age of 50 will pay less for dental care if they don’t have insurance, and even those over the age of 50 will likely only see a 0.5% insurance.
Despite its costs, the dental insurance industry holds on for a number of reasons related to the traditional workplace. But as the workplace is changed by the gig economy, will it mean the end of dental insurance and lead to a more direct relationship between people and their dentists?
How the Gig Economy Is Changing the Workplace
What is the gig economy? It’s a new approach to employment in which people earn a living by performing a number of tech-mediated “gigs” instead of getting a regular job.
Where regular employment means regular schedules, including restrictions on hours worked, the place they work, and the duties they are forced or allowed to perform.
But in the gig economy, people use online platforms like Uber, TaskRabbit, Fiverr, and others to choose the work that they perform, putting together their own set of duties and their own set of work hours. Or perhaps they are using eBay or Etsy to sell their personal crafts and merchandise.
This is a growing share of the economy. Perhaps 34% of all workers today are “gig” workers, and that may grow to 43% by 2020. The transformation is taking place faster here in Columbus than in other parts of the country. From 2012 to 2014, payroll employment in Columbus fell by 6.5%, while gig employment rose by 61%!
As the gig economy takes over, it could spell the end for dental insurance.
People Will See Dental Insurance Is a Bad Deal
Payroll employment does a lot to prop up dental insurance. One thing that keeps people from seeing that insurance is a bad deal is the fact that employers pay much of the cost of insurance. Delta Dental even admitted this when they tried to rebut the ADA report by saying that most of us only pay part of the cost of our dental insurance. Because employers pay premiums, people only see the benefits.
But when gig workers–who get no benefits–start having to pay the full cost of their insurance and treatment, they’re more likely to notice that they’re paying more with insurance than they’re getting in benefits.
Giggers Are Less Risk-Averse
Another factor in favor of insurance is that it it’s really selling only one benefit: peace of mind. In the traditional economy, people are taught to be afraid of risk. Risk of losing their job in particular, but also of damage to their car, their house, and themselves. To avoid risk, they spring for insurance even though they know that it’s not likely to pay off.
But when someone chooses to do gigs for a living, they have already embraced a higher level of risk. They aren’t as afraid of things going bad. And to them, saving the money is better than trying to get a false peace of mind.
Giggers Prefer Flexibility
And, of course, security comes with restrictions. People who have day jobs have made that bargain already: a secure paycheck for restricted schedules, duties, and workplace.
But people who give up that security for a job gigging have embraced the freedom to be in control of their own work schedules. They are prepared to sacrifice some income in favor of having a freer life.
And as a result, they’re probably going to be less happy with dental insurance, anyway. Dental insurance partly helps pay for procedures, but it also proposes strict limitations on what it will pay for. It might ask you to wait a certain period of time before your get a dental crown or braces. And it might limit whether you get a full ceramic dental crown or just a metal crown or if you can get Invisalign. People in the gig economy don’t want those kinds of restrictions and they’re more likely to want to do without.
Great Dental Care without Insurance
The good news is that you don’t need dental insurance to get great dental care. In fact, sometimes not having insurance helps you get better care. And with good financing options, you can still fit that care into your budget.