AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and Delta Dental are a few of the many insurance companies that offer dental plans to seniors. Each company may offer more than one type of dental plan and it is important to pay close attention to more than just the cost of the dental policy. Choosing the best dental plan for a senior is a balancing act between cost, affordability, and need. A good approach is to start by understanding what the senior’s dental needs are and then make a table so that as you begin to compare the different dental plans you can narrow down those plans that are good and remove those plans that are either too costly for the coverage they provide or that do not fit the senior’s dental needs.
A dental plan is not dental insurance, but is instead a way to get discounts on the care you need. Their dental plans offer savings of anywhere from 10% to 60% on dental procedures with no limits or wait times to get care. With dental plans, you also do not have to fill out time consuming paperwork - you can simply go to a dentist that you choose within their network and get the services you need.
Most full coverage dental insurance plans will cover two preventive maintenance visits per year without requiring a deductible payment. Most require a $50 deductible per person, per year to help cover costs beyond your preventive exams. If you need work done, most plans will cover a part of the costs. We looked at root canals specifically and found that the majority of dental plans will cover about half the cost, which may not seem like a lot, but paying half is better than paying upfront for an $800 root canal. However, keep in mind that most insurance policies, depending on your plan, top out at about $1000 to $1500 per year. Using conservative estimates that might be one or two root canals. If you need extensive work done you might have to pay the remaining amount out of pocket.
Since buying cheap dental insurance will mean that going to the dentist could cost you more, you might also be less likely to go to the dentist or you could put the visit off if you have a problem. This could lead to bigger issues with your dental health which could lead to more expensive procedures and treatment. For example, if you put off treating a cavity, you could end up needing a root canal.
DentalPlans.com isn’t an insurance company, but they work with dental service providers to reduce the cost to see an out-of-network dentists. In this way the company gives access to some of the same dental benefits offered by employers through typical group insurance, but more closely resembles a prescription discount card. For example, the estimate we received for a 6-month checkup was only $15. The annual cost for the plans range from $100 – $175 depending on the location and number of people covered.
Depending on the type of insurance you’re looking at, the network of your dental insurance provider could be crucially important. Check to see how many dentists they have in their network and if your current dentist is in it or if there is a dentist who has an office near you that you would want to go to. Another thing to consider is whether the insurance provider will let you go see dentists outside their network, what the costs will be, and whether you need a referral when you need to see a specialist.
Dental insurance almost always picks up 100 percent of the bill for routine checkups and cleanings. Coverage for common procedures like root canals and fillings are typically covered at 80 percent, although policies with higher premiums cover up to 90 percent. You are then responsible for the remaining 10 to 20 percent of the cost, called coinsurance. Most plans cover higher-priced and more involved procedures at 50 percent, so you should have some savings set aside for what your insurance does not cover. Still, with relatively low premiums, having dental insurance is far less expensive on average than paying cash for all dental procedures.
If you read our article on discount dental plans, you may think we are 100% against dental insurance. We are not. We simply know seniors can get sucked into paying high premiums with equally high out-of-pocket costs with no major insurance advantage. But, affordable dental insurance for seniors is possible that balances the right premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and coverage.
When shopping for the best dental plans for seniors, you should consider what services and treatments you might need, the costs of the plan, and what the plan covers. The dental needs of seniors could depend on the condition of their current teeth and their dental history. For example, if you already have full dentures, you may be more concerned about getting checked for oral cancer than in cavity treatment or bridges.
In either case, in our opinion, the purchase of dental insurance can be hard if you don’t do your homework. Why? The premiums aren’t in favor of the benefit. For example, if you are paying $100 per month for dental insurance which has an annual benefit of $1,000, that really isn’t in your best interest. You are paying $1,200 annually for a $1,000 benefit. In this case, it is better to simply negotiate a discount with the dentist or utilize a dental discount plan where appropriate (more on that below).
Choosing a plan that’s right for you depends on many factors, including the ages and number of people in your family, and whether you or a family member needs orthodontic care. Some dental plans provide low copays, while others provide discounts on services. No matter which plan you select, you’ll have access to a large network of dental providers.