Will the Gig Economy Kill the Dental Insurance Industry?

Man is working in a laptop in front of window in cafe

Dental insurance is a devil’s bargain. Overall, people inevitably pay more for insurance than they get in return. Some individuals may benefit, but for most of us, the cost just isn’t worth the benefit. And insurance can interfere with your dental treatment, encouraging you to make decisions based on short-term cost rather than long-term value. There are many reasons why people stick with dental insurance, including the fact that it’s built into what we used to consider the modern workplace.

But as the workplace changes, will it spell the end for dental insurance?

What Is the Gig Economy?

If you’re not familiar with what economists are calling the “gig economy,” we’ll give you a quick primer. In a regular employment economy, people primarily work one job that supplies them with the income they need to sustain their families.

But in a gig economy, people don’t have what we might consider regular employment. Instead, they cobble together income from many sources, including freelance work, selling merchandise on eBay and other sites, and work coordinated through online platforms like Uber, TaskRabbit, and more.

This is a growing phenomenon across the country. In Houston, gig employment grew at twice the rate of payroll employment from 2012-2014. And here’s why that growth can spell bad news for dental insurance.

People Will See Dental Insurance Is a Bad Deal

One of the reasons why dental insurance remains popular is that much of the cost of insurance has traditionally been borne by employers. Delta Dental admitted as much when it tried to rebuff the American Dental Association’s assertion that insurance isn’t worth it for most of us. Dental insurance is a common benefit given by traditional employers, and when they provide the benefit, they pay some or all of the cost. With little or no cost coming out of pocket, people see dental insurance as a good deal.

But when giggers look at the cost and benefit of insurance, they won’t be including any employer subsidies. They’ll just be looking at the actual cost and the actual benefits, and they’ll see that it’s a bad deal.

Giggers Are Less Risk-Averse

Insurance doesn’t really sell benefits: it sells peace of mind. People need insurance to know that they’ll be protected in case something bad happens tomorrow. This goes hand in hand with what keeps people in regular jobs. They want to know where their next paycheck is coming from.

But when someone decides to put together a series of gigs for their living, they’re saying they’re okay with taking a risk on not having tomorrow covered. And that will influence their tendency to want insurance. They will be happier to take a risk that something bad might happen tomorrow and be confident that they can handle it on their own.

Giggers Prefer Flexibility

The other side of security is confinement. And as much as anything, people who give up their day jobs in favor of gigging are looking for the freedom to be their own boss. They know they might be working harder and longer and sometimes even for less money, but they’ll feel better because they’re in charge of their own living.

Dental insurance doesn’t give you flexibility. It comes with all kinds of conditions and limitations that generally restrict you to options that save the insurance company money. They may require that you wait before you get a dental crown. They may restrict what type of filling you can choose. They may even encourage you to get a dental bridge when a dental implant is a better option. This kind of constraint will chafe on those who are looking for the freer lifestyle though the gig economy.

Great Dental Care without Insurance

As fewer people rely on insurance, we hope that more people will realize that it’s possible to get and maintain good dental health without insurance. In fact, it’s easier to get great dental care when you don’t have the restriction of trying to please the bean-counters at the insurance company.

If you are looking for a Houston dentist who is used to helping people with and without dental insurance, please call (281) 367-5559 today for an appointment with cosmetic dentist Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry.