Although discount plans are also sold by private companies, they are not insurance plans. There are no copays, coinsurance, or deductible amounts. That also means that there are no pre-negotiated rates or free yearly checkups and cleanings. A participating dentist simply agrees to offer discounts (often a percentage off from the total price) for certain medical services. Then, seniors who choose discount plans will pay their dentist directly for the cost of services (after the discount).
The Mayo Clinic advises that poor dental health significantly impacts your physical health, including causing heart disease and endocarditis, an infection of the heart’s inner lining. Diseases which often affect us as we age like osteoporosis, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, to name a few, frequently cause dental problems that eventually become too painful to ignore. Seniors often need more dental care than younger generations because of softening bones and teeth or a dry mouth, which can lead to an assortment of oral health problems. Regular visits to the dentist can save money down the road while reducing the risk of painful dental problems.
Often, there is no waiting period in a group plan, like one offered by an employer. Of course, if you were eligible for a company-based plan, you probably wouldn't be shopping around on your own. However, the same privilege might be had in a group plan offered through an organization such as AARP. With their plans, there's no waiting period for preventative services, at least.
There are few procedures that most insurance companies will not cover or only provide a discount for. Most individual dental insurance plans do not cover what might be considered cosmetic procedures such as tooth-colored fillings on molar or bicuspid teeth, dental implants or adult cosmetic orthodontics. The majority of dental companies will also limit how often certain appliances can be replaced and, in most cases, will not replace lost items. The limitations are published in the disclosures and contracts for the plan, many of which you can peruse online. Keep in mind that a new dental insurance plan is not going to cover an emergency you are experiencing right now; most have a waiting period of six to 12 months for major work. (However, some will waive the waiting period if you recently had dental insurance.) Dental groups that offer dental discount plans will let you use your benefits right away, but they only provide a discount and not full coverage. Full coverage plans will however cover your initial evaluation so you can start planning your dental procedures.
There can sometimes be significant differences between the dental insurance plans that employers sponsor and those that you obtain as an individual. One big (and obvious) difference is that usually employers pay for part or all of the dental insurance plan, whereas if you're buying a plan by yourself you have to pay for the whole thing. Some employers are also able to get a better deal because they're buying insurance in in bulk for all their employees. But, if you shop around, you could potentially get a plan that is similarly priced or even cheaper.
There are many insurance companies that offer dental services to seniors. Many are part of the group of insurance companies that fall under Medicare part C. While every insurance company under Medicare Part C offers the same medical coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, they sometimes offer additional services such as dental coverage. Even so, the types of dental coverages that they offer are not identical.
Blue Cross Blue Shield has a plan called BlueCare that does not have a waiting period for preventative services and many non-surgical procedures. United Healthcare's United Health One is another. Major surgical treatments and restorative work do require some wait time, though that can be curtailed to some extent if you're coming off another dental plan.
Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.
Another thing to consider when looking for dental plans for seniors is the waiting period some plans may have for certain services. For example, a plan may set a 3-month waiting period for an extraction. This means that if you get an extraction a week after enrolling in that plan, you usually won’t be covered. Some services may have longer waiting periods, such as 15 months, before the plan covers that service. This is why it is best to not wait until you have a dental emergency to enroll in a dental insurance plan.
No matter which type of plan you choose, we recommend that you carefully review your contract so you know exactly what your insurance will cover. Additionally, in most cases your dentist's office will be familiar with what your insurance may or may not cover. Since many dental offices will require you to pay the estimated uncovered balance upfront, you will need to make sure you know what that is in advance so you can plan your budget. If you cannot cover the remaining balance you may want to ask if your dentist provides financing.
While some financial planners suggest dental insurance may not be worth paying for, we did the math to discover that it is usually worth it, provided you attend all of your allowable preventive exams and cleanings. We also learned that if you need any type of work such as a root canal or filling, you will definitely notice a cost savings. However, premiums vary greatly, not only by the type of plan, but by location and age. So you'll want to obtain a few quotes for insurance companies that provide coverage in your area. You'll also want to verify that your dentist accepts your chosen insurance before you sign up with a new provider.
It is a far too common situation. You enroll in Medicare and have your medical and health needs covered. You feel good. Finally, you made a decision about Medicare. What about dental coverage? Your teeth matter, right? We all know when our teeth and gums hurt, everything hurts! Yet, Medicare and nearly all Medicare Advantage and supplement plans do not cover dental needs. If they do, coverage is usually limited to preventative care only. What will you do about fillings, bridges, and crowns? Luckily, we at My Family Life Insurance have many coverage solutions when it comes to dental needs. In this article, we discuss dental insurance, plan types, what to look for with affordable dental insurance, and the best dental insurance for seniors on Medicare.