New Year, New Ventures

Fourth quarter of 2014 has come and gone and because of some important initiatives here at Northeast Delta Dental, it went by fast. I truly can’t believe January of 2015 is halfway over. We had a great year at Northeast Delta Dental and the New Year looks bright. I hope that your New Year is off to a great start, too.

For starters, we successfully entered the Health Insurance Marketplaces created by the federal Affordable Care Act in Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont’s private exchange, Vermont Health Connect. We have nearly 3,500 subscribers and more than 6,500 covered lives through these exchanges. In keeping with our mission to improve access to oral health care and education, it was critical that we offered dental plans on these exchanges. We also offer coverage through our private exchange, DeltaDentalCoversMe.com.

This past year we entered a partnership with medical carrier Maine Community Health Options (MCHO) which presents new options for New Hampshire’s consumers.  The consumer operated and oriented health insurance plan recently expanded to offer medical plans in New Hampshire for 2015 after capturing more than 83% of the enrollees on the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace in 2014.  Northeast Delta Dental is handling the claims processing for the pediatric dental benefit MCHO is including in three of its medical plans being offered on healthcare.gov.

Also in 2014, the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation supported a number of oral health initiatives and projects in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. These included the New York University Oral Health Outreach program in Washington County (Machias, Maine); New Hampshire Oral Health Plan; Red Logan Dental Clinic (White River Junction, Vermont); the Vermont State Education Loan Repayment Program for dentists (AHEC); the University of Vermont Dental Residency Program at the University of Vermont Medical Center (formerly Fletcher Allen Health Care); Vermont Head Start Early Head Start Tooth Tutor Program; and the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) Dentist Loan Repayment Program.

We are proud to partner with these organizations to increase access to, and the quality of, oral health care and education in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. I will continue to keep you all informed of new developments here at Northeast Delta Dental.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

Posted in Affordable Care Act, New Years Resolutions, Northeast Delta Dental, Northeast Delta Dental Foundation, Oral Health | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Going Green in 2015

Fourth quarter is always a time for reflection and with the year winding down, I wanted to share information about an important initiative we are excited about here at Northeast Delta Dental.

As the region’s most trusted name in dental benefits, we print hundreds of thousands of documents every year including identification cards and Explanation of Benefits (EOBs). We feel that we have a responsibility to help reduce our impact on the environment and as such, we have decided to no longer reprint ID cards for most existing customers starting January 1.

New group customer enrollees and enrollees who receive a new subscriber ID number will continue to receive new or replacement ID cards. However, the product name (PPO, Premier), group number, and office visit co-pay will not be printed on ID cards. Those who need to access this information may do so through Benefit Lookup at nedelta.com/Patients, and the Delta Dental mobile app for devices operating on Apple iOS and Android.

Group Administrators can view the same ID card as Benefit Lookup through the Group Admin Portal (GAP); however, Administrators won’t be able to request a replacement plastic ID card. Plastic ID cards will automatically be generated through the GAP whenever the transaction requires a subscriber ID number change or is for a new enrollee.

Also effective January 1, Northeast Delta Dental will issue Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) electronically via our Benefit Lookup portal. If customers wish to view or print EOBs (as far back as six years), they may do so securely through the site.

Of course, any customers who prefer to continue receiving hard copies of EOBs via standard mail, may do so through Benefit Lookup or by calling our Eligibility department after January 1, at 1-603-223-1230.

As always, we welcome any questions or concerns you may have about our new initiatives.

Thank you for supporting our earth-friendly initiatives. Happy Holidays and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year.

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November updates

There are so many things to be thankful for this year including my incredibly supportive family and my wonderful employee colleagues at Northeast Delta Dental. Without my family’s support and without Northeast Delta Dental’s employees keeping the trains running, I wouldn’t be able to be so involved in our community. My calendar has been full this month and I want to highlight a couple of newsworthy events that have happened around our campus.

Over the weekend, I attended the Granite State Baseball Dinner, an event we are proud to support annually. This event supports the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Ted Williams Museum, and the NH Fisher Cats Foundation, while recognizing the Fisher Cats Player of the Year. This year, Richard Bleier, pitcher, was awarded the Golden Crown Trophy. More than 1,000 people attended this year’s event to raise funds for these important charities while connecting with current and former baseball greats.

Earlier this month, my employee colleague, Beth-Ann Barrett was honored for her longtime service to The Friendly Kitchen at Volunteer NH’s Spirit of NH Awards. She has been involved with The Friendly Kitchen for more than 25 years and has helped to serve meals to countless residents of greater Concord, New Hampshire over the years. Congratulations, Beth-Ann!

I am sure I will see many of you tomorrow at either the Bow Police 5k Turkey Trot or the Galloping Gobbler race at Bishop Brady.

I hope you and your family have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Posted in Community, Thanksgiving, Tom's Update, Volunteering | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

So Far, So Good: Open Enrollment and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

What a difference a year makes. The second Open Enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplaces in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont opened at midnight this past Saturday.  So far, so good.  This is a big change from the start of last year’s Open Enrollment when so much that could go wrong with the new technology, did.

This year, though, four days into year two of the ACA’s online insurance marketplaces, most reports say that they are working well.  According to the federal government, on Sunday alone more than 100,000 people enrolled in the 2015 health plans on healthcare.gov.

Vermont Health Connect (VHC) has also received positive reports so far.  The VHC website was shut down for most of the last two months; however, it is up and running now and good for Vermont.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department, the agency responsible for implementing the ACA’s federal online health insurance marketplace, is predicting between nine and ten million people will purchase their medical coverage on healthcare.gov in 2015.  That’s two to three million more than bought plans in 2014.

At Northeast Delta Dental, we’re expecting thousands of individuals and families to choose one of our stand-alone plans on either healthcare.gov or VHC again this year.

Our new partnership with Maine Community Health Options (MCHO) is going to be something to watch this year, too.  We are handling the claims processing for the pediatric dental benefit they are including in three of their medical plans in Maine and New Hampshire.  More than 80% of individuals and families in Maine who bought a medical plan on healthcare.gov last year bought it from MCHO.  We’re wishing them equal success as they branch out into New Hampshire this year.

Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Care Reform, Maine Community Health Options | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Books I am Reading: Paid to Think

One of my employee colleagues attended a Public Relations Society of America conference in sunny Florida earlier this year and brought back Paid to Think written by David Goldsmith, one of the keynote speakers.  The book discusses Enterprise Thinking, a revolutionary, research-based approach to leadership that explains how successful leaders perform a dozen important activities on a daily basis in the areas of strategizing, learning, performing, and forecasting.

Goldsmith also mentions the idea of taking a 50,000 feet approach to running a company.  For example, it is my responsibility to make sure Northeast Delta Dental meets our annual Smart Goals and while I do worry about the little things occasionally, I know that we hire capable employees who know how to do their jobs right the first time.  At Northeast Delta Dental we focus on attracting and retaining skilled employees and require all job applicant finalists to complete a Predictive Index® assessment and a critical thinking assessment before they are hired.  We serve a number of different audiences including our customers, participating dentists, and producers and we require these tests to help make sure our employees communicate and solve problems effectively and efficiently.

Paid to Think provides leaders with the necessary tools to “keep the trains running” and serves as a reminder that while the little things are important, if you have capable staff in place and a strategic plan, it’s okay to relax a bit. I recommend all corporate leaders pick-up a copy.

Paid to Think

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Don’t let your Halloween fun haunt your oral and overall health

There is a chill in the air and it’s finally starting to feel like fall. This past weekend, I participated in the Granite State 10 Miler to benefit the Concord Boys and Girls Club followed by the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk to benefit the American Cancer Society with my employee colleagues. I enjoy running year-round but especially in the fall.

With Halloween around the corner, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the importance of oral and overall health, especially when candy is often the highlight for many children who will roam the neighborhood trick-or-treating to gather as many sweet treats as they can.

While candy is fine to enjoy in moderation, it’s important that you encourage your children to eat a full meal before trick-or-treating to prevent them from filling-up on candy. Also, try to limit the amount of hard candies or chewy candies your children eat. Hard candies can chip or crack teeth and increase the amount of time teeth are exposed to sugar. Chewy candies stick to teeth, also increasing the amount of time teeth are exposed to sugar. When teeth are exposed to sugar for extended periods of time, it provides a welcoming environment for bacteria to grow which in turn, produces cavity-causing acids.

I wish you and your family a happy and safe Halloween! To access fun Halloween activities and oral health tips, visit www.toothfairytrickytreats.com.

If you are looking for something outdoors to do this weekend after this dreaded rain, check out these three family-friendly Halloween-themed road races/walks to think about:

Trick or Trot 3k (Manchester, NH)

Witch Way to the 5k (Bedford, NH)

Wicked FIT Run (Concord, NH)

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Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchanges: Upcoming 2015 Changes

Coverage is available to firms with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees through the SHOP Exchanges. One intent of the SHOP is to decrease small firms’ costs for health insurance coverage.  From 1999 to 2009, health insurance premiums increased 123 percent for small businesses, a significant amount considering that within the United States there are 34 million employees working for 5.8 million small firms. Small firms constitute 96 percent of all firms according to the Council of Economic Advisers.

Another goal of the SHOP Exchange is to increase employee choice in health insurance plan options. “Employee choice” allows an employee to choose from several options selected by an employer from the tiered system of medical plans the SHOP offers (Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze). States had the option to delay that function due to concerns that it would not be fully operational by the beginning of the open enrollment period. Maine and New Hampshire opted to delay employee choice until 2016 for that reason.

As many know, the SHOP Exchange side of the Federally Facilitated Marketplaces did not open in fall 2013 when the individual exchange did.  The Obama administration postponed the kick-off due to technical problems. Five test states will soon test the federally-run SHOP Exchanges under the assumption that they will be ready for the open enrollment start date on November 15.  As with last year, states that do not have functioning online SHOP Exchanges for 2015, like Vermont, will permit medical and dental carriers that have approved SHOP plans to offer them directly to small businesses.  Small businesses can also access those plans through producers.

Some have expressed doubt that SHOP Exchanges will be ready for November 15.  Even if the five states testing results discover issues that necessitate system updates, I think it is likely that the federal government will open up SHOP Exchanges for political reasons. At Northeast Delta Dental, we currently have two SHOP groups in Maine, and none in New Hampshire. For several reasons, few small businesses have utilized the SHOP Exchange.  That may change once the online function is operating.

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