If you are a senior or are approaching retirement, you may be surprised to find out that Medicare does not provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare mainly covers medical treatments, but does not provide any assistance for routine dental care such as bi-annual exams, cleanings, or even major services like bridges or dentures. This leaves it to seniors to search for a dental plan that can meet their coverage needs.
Generally Original Medicare dental coverage is only for limited circumstances involving hospitalization. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally doesn’t cover most dental care, including cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, and dental plates. Hospital insurance (Part A) may pay for emergency or complicated dental procedures, for example the reconstruction of the jaw following an accidental injury, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS). According to CMS, Congress has not amended the dental exclusion since 1980, when it made an exception for inpatient hospital services when the dental procedure itself made the hospitalization necessary. If you have Original Medicare and want routine dental care, you will generally need to find a plan from a private insurance company.
How you define “cost” is important. Generally a single plate – upper or lower- costs between $1,200 and $3,800. So, for a full set of dentures could cost in the $7,500 range. Those higher costs usually include other services such as extractions, mold production, and fittings. Again, the actual cost is dependent upon the senior’s oral health, and the amount of service needed. Don’t be afraid to shop around from one dentist to the next to see if there is a price break.
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Many seniors have dental health issues, and hope that by purchasing a standard insurance plan they will be able to afford to get treatments that they have been delaying due to cost. Unfortunately traditional dental insurance often does not cover preexisting conditions, nor will it pay to replace teeth that were lost prior to purchasing the coverage.
Many provide as much as 100% coverage preventative services and then less on basic procedures usually 50% to 80%, and usually 50% to 0% on major care or things like crowns. Often there is some fine print with these plans and they do not cover certain procedures. They also have a maximum annual benefit and a deductible that you have to pay before they start coverage. There also can potentially be waiting periods on certain types of procedures but you don’t always have to get a referral to see a specialist.
Each plan will provide dental coverage for a variety of dental needs, but are not always the same. What they might or might not cover includes dental services such as root canals, deep cleanings, and restorative procedures. When they do cover these services they do so only partially and the senior must either pay out of pocket or have a secondary dental insurance plan. Most plans for seniors pay for routine care, such as an annual cleaning, but require a copayment or co-insurance for other services.
Under the federal law, dental benefits are an optional service for state Medicaid programs. States can include adult dental benefits in their Medicaid programs. Many states do provide dental benefits for adults; however the status and extent of those benefits vary by state and by year, depending on the availability of state funds to support such benefits.
*Examples only. These are the average costs the patient will pay per procedure with an in-network provider and are based on averages across Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Manhattan and Saint Louis. Actual costs and savings may vary by provider, geographic area, and service received. There are limitations and exclusions to the discount available. For example, general anesthesia, implants, and/or cosmetic dentistry are not discounted services. Upon purchase, refer to your policy for more information on the limitations and exclusions that apply. Coinsurance listed is for Prime Plan C.
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.
An example of Delta Dental’s offerings is their Dental for Everyone Gold PPO plan which includes savings that change depending on what year of the plan you're in. When it comes to preventative care, they offer 60% coverage in the first year, 80% in the second year and 100% in the third year and going forward. For basic care, they offer 50% coverage in the first year, 65% of the second year, and 80% in the third year and going forward. For major care, you get 0% coverage in the first year, 30% in the second year, and 50% in the third year.
How you define “cost” is important. Generally a single plate – upper or lower- costs between $1,200 and $3,800. So, for a full set of dentures could cost in the $7,500 range. Those higher costs usually include other services such as extractions, mold production, and fittings. Again, the actual cost is dependent upon the senior’s oral health, and the amount of service needed. Don’t be afraid to shop around from one dentist to the next to see if there is a price break.
Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Group Universal Life (GUL) insurance plans are insured by CGLIC. Life (other than GUL), accident, critical illness, hospital indemnity, and disability plans are insured or administered by Life Insurance Company of North America, except in NY, where insured plans are offered by Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York (New York, NY). All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.
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