When you near the age of 65, you need to sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare does not cover preventative dental care or other procedures such as fillings, tooth extractions, dentures or other dental devices. If you have a complicated or emergency dental procedure that requires hospitalization, Medicare Part A will likely cover the cost, but it is obviously preferable to avoid hospitalization if you can with regularly-scheduled dental care.
Dental savings plans are different than dental insurance. Dental savings plans provide you with a list of dentists who will give you a discount because you’re a member of the savings plan. Usually, these are quite generous discounts and can save you a significant amount of money on your dental care. Sometimes the discount can be well over 50% for things like preventative care, but it tends to be a little less for other types of care.
First, you could enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan. Many Medicare Advantage plans include vision, dental, and prescription drug coverage. All of these benefits are coordinated together, so any premium costs will be included in your low (or non-existent) Medicare Advantage premium. Just be aware that dental benefits are usually limited to cleanings, exams, and bitewing X-rays. If you are looking for more comprehensive coverage, you may want to add on a stand-alone dental plan.
Generally dental offices have a fee schedule, or a list of prices for the dental services or procedures they offer. Dental insurance companies have similar fee schedules which is generally based on Usual and Customary dental services, an average of fees in an area. The fee schedule is commonly used as the transactional instrument between the insurance company, dental office and/or dentist, and the consumer.
Since this is an indemnity plan, you can use other insurances or coverage. A dental discount plan can work well here. Using the above example, if the dentist routinely charges $200 for cleaning, but per the discount plan contract, charges you $100, you will have a net cost of $10. Remember, most discount dental plans charge between $8 and $15 per month depending on other features.
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.
A carrier recently told us that many seniors expect to carry over their dental coverage from their employer. Yet, that rarely happens. What does happen is that about 90% of seniors on Medicare don’t have proper dental coverage (American Dental Association). After filling out the Medicare paperwork, most seniors put dental insurance on the back burner. (And vision and hearing, too…we’ll get to those later.) And, why not? Your teeth are not hurting yet and they feel pretty good.
Medicare, the largest health insurance provider for adults 65 and older, does NOT provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare only pays when dental care and medical needs intersect. Medigap, a private insurance plan that supplements Medicare coverage, doesn’t offer dental coverage, but some private Medicare Advantage managed care plans do offer dental benefits.
Before deciding to purchase dental insurance, talk with your dentist regarding the extent of your treatment plan. This way you can decide if you would be better off with or without dental insurance. A very important factor to remember regarding any dental insurance plan is that dental insurance is not at all similar to medical insurance. The majority of dental insurance plans are designed with the purpose of only covering the basic dental care around $1,000 to $1,500 (about the same amount that they covered 30 years ago) per year and is not intended to provide comprehensive coverage like that of medical insurance.
Another downside of buying your own dental insurance is that you might not be able to afford the same type of coverage, which means that you could potentially have fewer benefits than you would if you had gotten it through your employer. That might mean that you have less access to certain types of treatment or that in order to get an affordable plan with good coverage, you’ll have to choose one where you have to stay within the plan’s network.
If you are on a policy that requires you to go to a participating provider, you should not be charged the difference between these two prices. A contracted dentist generally has an agreement with the insurance company to write off the difference in charges. If the policy allows you to go to a dentist or pediatric dentist of your choice, check the insurance company’s UCR fee guide against the fees that dentist charges. You may be required to pay the difference out of your pocket, however, you cannot put a price tag on quality dental care.
Most people know that they need to visit a dentist regularly. Having dental coverage is strongly associated with how often dental services are used. Americans often say that the cost of dental care and the lack of dental coverage are reasons for not getting needed dental care. Having an individual dental insurance plan from Spirit Dental allows you to get the regular care you need to stay healthy.