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.
Dental insurance companies divide benefits, services, or procedures into categories and refer to them with American Dental Association (ADA) 3-4 digit code. As an example, Preventative and Diagnostic procedures often include exams (ADA code 0120), x-rays (ADA code 0210), and basic cleanings or prophylaxis (ADA code 1110). Basic procedures often include fillings, periodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery. Major procedures often are crowns, dentures, and implants. Procedures such as periodontics, endodontics, and oral surgery may be considered major, depending on the policy.
If you go to an out-of-network dentist, then the plan usually pays based on the UCR fee. For example, if the dentist charges $250 for the filling, but the UCR in your area is $150, you could end up paying more. In this case, $130 ($250 – $150 X (.80)). This also introduces the concept of balanced billing, which means paying the dentist the cost difference between their rate ($250 in this case) and the cost-sharing rate ($120).
If you're wondering if the Affordable Care Act of 2014, also known as Obamacare, affects dental coverage – it does. You can buy health coverage through the online health insurance marketplace that includes dental coverage. You can also purchase a standalone dental insurance plan through the health insurance marketplace, but in order to do so you have to also purchase a standalone health plan through the marketplace.
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.
Dental providers contract with dental savings plans to provide the same quality dental work at reduced prices. The concept is a familiar one – it’s the same model used by discount clubs like Costco and Sam’s. Dentists realize that for many seniors, insurance is not the best option and, in many cases, doesn’t provide all of the coverage they really need. You benefit by gaining access to discounts of up to 60% on routine and major oral healthcare.
If you're struggling to find an affordable dental insurance, your state might offer some programs that could help you. Many states have assistance programs for those who are unable to pay for dental care themselves. To find out whether your state has a program, visit the National Association of Dental and Cranialfacial Research, as well as the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors. Their websites have links and information about how to get low-cost dental care in your state.
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.
Find a local dentist, access your insurance cards, or provide your doctor with critical information on the go with the Dental Select Mobile ID app. We provide superior dental insurance for seniors, as well as individuals and families, and our mobile app makes it simple for subscribers and covered family members to get the information they need anytime, anywhere.
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