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.
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.
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.   
The AARP Dental Insurance Plan is insured by Delta Dental Insurance Company (Contract 1230) in AK, AL, DC, DE, FL, GA, LA, MD, MS, MT, NV, NY, PA, PR, TN, TX, UT, VI and WV, insured by Dentegra Insurance Company (Contract 1230) in AR, AZ, CA, CO, CT, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, VA, VT, WA, WI and WY, and insured by Dentegra Insurance Company of New England (Contract 1230) in MA. The plan is administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company. For Texas residents your Master Policy Form number is TX-AMD-MC-DPO-D-DC(DELTAUSA1-2005). These companies are financially responsible for their own products.
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.
These dental schools either offer discounts or provide free dental services in order to get patients they can practice on. While they do all sorts of different procedures, it’s probably best to go to them for more routine care like cleanings, check ups, x-rays, and small cavities. If you have a more complex procedure to get done, you might better off going to an expert instead.
For those seniors who enjoy good dental health and are looking mainly for preventive care and basic services, Ameritas Dental may be a good option to consider. For those looking to save money, if you only need one preventive/maintenance checkup per year, you can buy a dental plan through Ameritas that will cost less than plans with more services. The company also offers a dental rewards program where you can roll over unused coverage from one policy term to the next if you did not use dental services during the year.
Another option for dental care is Medicaid, which covers some kinds of dental procedures if you meet the requirements. Medicare does not provide dental coverage. The ADA Foundation has provided dental care to 5.5 million children since 2003. They will direct you to a dentist that is near you. Another option is the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It provides health coverage including dental coverage to over 7 million children under 19 years of age.
As a Medicare beneficiary, you are free to shop for a stand-alone private dental plan for seniors. Some dental plan types are PPO plans* and others are indemnity plans. A PPO stands for preferred provider organization. This is a type of plan that contracts with dental providers to create a network of participating providers. If you want to use a dentist out of network, you usually can for an additional cost. An indemnity plan allows you to visit almost any dentist you like with the plan paying a portion of your total charges. Indemnity plans are also called “fee-for-service” plans.
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.
Our top three choices offer an excellent selection of policies and discounts that can protect your savings without requiring you to pay excessive premiums. The companies service almost all markets in the U.S. Remember that you can probably go out of network to see the dentist you prefer, but you will pay more out of pocket for doing so. If you have a favorite dentist, call their office to ask what dental insurances consider them in-network.
Almost all dental insurance companies use what is called a Usual, Customary, and Reasonable (UCR) fee guide. This means that they set their own price that they will allow for every dental procedure that they cover. This is not based on what a dentist actually charges, but what the dental insurance company wishes to cover. For example, your dentist may charge $78 for a dental cleaning, but your insurance company will only allow $58 because that is the UCR fee that they have set.
Our health benefit plans, dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans have exclusions, limitations, and terms under which the coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Our dental plans, vision plans, and life insurance plans may also have waiting periods. For costs and complete details of coverage, call or write Humana or your Humana insurance agent or broker.
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