Benefits

Smart Smiles

Beam Dental adds data to dental health.
Smart Smiles

Beam Dental is disrupting the dental insurance market and pioneering smart new ways to promote wellness among its subscribers.

The company, founded by three engineers, wasn’t originally an insurance provider. Alex Frommeyer, Alex Curry, and Dan Dykes thought insurers could provide better coverage options for consumers if they had access to data about people’s dental hygiene habits. The founders had family members who were dental professionals and realized there was a data gap in this field.

“The company really started around what we think of as a dental wellness program,” Frommeyer says. “The brush for sure is the star of the show.”

A DENTAL BENEFIT THAT CUTS COSTS BY REWARDING HEALTHY HABITS

The Beam toothbrush connects to the user’s smartphone app and records their daily use. Program participants receive rewards like free replacement brush heads, dental hygiene products, and Amazon gift cards simply for brushing their teeth. The Beam team developed the brush to address a problem faced by the health care industry at large: How do you get people to adopt healthy habits? Can you incentivize behavior that leads to a healthier population?

“The idea is that by building and maintaining good daily dental care habits, you could now prove that you’re taking great care of your teeth every day — whether it’s to yourself, to your dentist, or to Beam — and you actually get credit for it in the form of rewards,” Frommeyer says. “Which we think is really fun and helpful from a population health perspective.”

The company’s initial brush has evolved into a full-scale dental insurance product that operates as a PPO provider working with more than 400,000 access points nationwide.

“We thought it was a fascinating market,” Frommeyer recalls. “It was a really big market, and really nobody was working to try to modernize it or digitize it and take it into the future. We thought it would be really interesting to try and solve the big meaningful problems that we saw in dentistry. That’s really what led us to start Beam and craft it into an insurance business.”

The response from employers and their team members has been overwhelmingly positive, especially when they get that first Amazon reward and realize there’s no catch. And employers love the way good dental hygiene helps bring down their dental insurance rates.

FLEXIBILITY BY DESIGN

Nathalie McManamon, vice president of Filice Insurance Services, says her company started out as a broker for Beam. But McManamon was so impressed with Frommeyer’s presentation on Beam’s value proposition that Filice decided to enroll as a customer. She counts Beam’s perks, stellar customer service, and the product’s ease of use as some of its best qualities.

“In terms of working with Beam, one of the things that really stands out for us and for our clients is the flexibility in plan design,” McManamon says. “We have the ability to set levels for coinsurance, out-of-pocket maxes, out-of-network reimbursements, what services are covered in basic versus major categories, and the ability to offer multiple plans to a single employer group. These are all things our clients are excited about.”

As a broker, McManamon says Filice rigorously evaluates the companies it works with in terms of the services it provides, both for her company and to its clients.

“Beam places a high level of importance on delivering good service and maintaining that level of good service,” she says. “They reach out to us for feedback — and when we provide feedback, they take action on it.”

Beam has built this exceptional approach to employee benefits with a few key attributes in mind from day one, according to Frommeyer. Ease of use, smarter data, and a focus on wellness are at the heart of its mission.

They noticed that health care, insurance, and financial services sometimes lag behind other consumer areas in that they tend to be more analog, labor-intensive, and old-school industries — with many regulatory barriers. In short, they’re not always user-friendly.

Frommeyer says Beam exists to tear down those barriers and provide positive consumer and user experiences “regardless of who that stakeholder is.” And it does it in a way that encourages people to want to understand more about how to use their insurance because they like interacting with Beam.

The big challenge for health care companies across the board is getting consumers to develop and maintain healthy habits. Better personal habits lead to better health outcomes overall, which reduces the financial burden on consumers, employers, medical providers, and insurers alike. Everyone wins when everyone is healthier.

“This is not a Beam challenge. It’s not a new challenge. It’s just the challenge of health care,” Frommeyer says. “It’s the challenge of a multitrillion-dollar industry. Even though everyone in the world will agree with you that eating healthy is good for me and it’ll elongate my life and keep me looking and feeling fit and allow me to do more stuff, man that junk food tastes good. And I still slip and eat it all the time. And that’s the challenge of health care.”

A BRIGHT FUTURE

Beam’s model directly rewards people for taking healthy actions. That not only differentiates Beam, but it’s also essential to the company’s identity. The data the company receives back from users allows it to offer a more fair and flexible pricing model for customers.

There hasn’t been a lot of effort put into understanding dental risk, Frommeyer says, and one-size-fits-all options treat small businesses unfairly. Distinct types of companies, from marketing firms to manufacturers, have different kinds of employees and unique needs and budgets.

“And yet they’re all treated like they’re the same company by large insurance businesses,” he says.

Beam decided to generate a product that is customized for each company that adopts it, which means coverage and price are more appropriate and can improve over time as groups adopt healthy behaviors that decrease their overall risk.

Beam continues to expand rapidly, and there are more innovations on the horizon — and not just in the dental market. Beam already offers vision and group life insurance products. It’s also looking into other products employers might want.

“There’s a lot out there that we think deserves to be a unified, really wonderful experience for employers of all sizes,” Frommeyer says. “But especially the small ones.”

Continue Reading