Private dental insurance uptake at ‘record’ high, report says

Private dental insurance uptake at 'record' high, report says

New research suggests that 3.8 million people in the UK were covered by private dental plans or insurance in 2022 – increasing from 3.2 million in 2019.

On 18 April, market analyst LaingBuisson published a report on the UK healthcare landscape. The findings suggest that demand for private dental coverage in the form of insurance and dental plans is steadily rising. The researchers considered data about private dental services going back to 2007, before which uptake of dental insurance was decreasing.

LaingBuisson said the number of dental insurance subscribers increased by 23% in 2021 and 22% in 2022, with more than 1.1 million people insured. The analyst described this as ‘record growth’, with the market size increasing from £109 to £180 million in two years. Capitation plan subscriptions also increased by 4.6% in 2021 and 7.7% in 2022, for a total of 2.7 million people covered.

The total size of the dental plan market was found to have increased by around one fifth, rising from £710 million to £868 million. This represents the largest growth out of all the health sectors considered within the report. However, the review also found that only a quarter of private treatments covered by plans.

Catherine Rutland, clinical director of Denplan, said: ‘This study shows what we have been seeing at Denplan and Simplyhealth over the last couple of years. As access to NHS dentistry becomes more difficult, employers, and patients themselves are seeing plans, either insurance or capitation as a cost-effective solution.

‘There is a growing understanding amongst the public that private dentistry is not just cosmetic dentistry, but also focused on long term preventative care, helping avoid more expensive needs later. Plans also help to spread the cost and improve speed of access for all generations.’

Why is demand for private coverage increasing?

Tim Read is director of research and content at LaingBuisson and author of this year’s report. He said that the increased demand for private coverage reflects reduced access to NHS dentistry.

Reported in The Telegraph, he said: ‘With more and more people finding themselves unable get an appointment with NHS dentists, it comes as little surprise to find growing numbers choosing to take out dental cover. Not just for themselves, but also to ensure their families are able to get the treatments they need when they need it.’

The report also discussed the private healthcare market more generally, including uptake of private medical insurance. It suggests that demand for health insurance is at its highest level since 2008, with 7.3 million people now covered in the UK. Tim Read also discussed the impact of the NHS on this overall picture.

He said: ‘LaingBuisson’s analysis shows a longer, deeper relationship between the length of the NHS waiting list and demand for health insurance. The pandemic may have driven increased demand, but it is misleading to suggest it is the cause of it. Demand began to increase in 2018, as the NHS waiting list began to rise out of control. This suggests that without substantial inroads into making NHS-funded care accessible within acceptable timescales for patients, health cover products will continue to grow in demand.’

Discussing the trends revealed by the report, he described the current period as ‘the first time there has been sustained growth in the sector for more than 15 years’. He felt that this picture of the health cover market is ‘positive’ as ‘uplifts in subscriber volumes following the pandemic should translate to overall growth in market value as background inflation declines’.

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