People buying their own dental insurance (as opposed to those covered by an employer's plan) sometimes get a nasty surprise when they sign up: a waiting period. Unlike regular health insurance, in which coverage usually starts immediately or at the beginning of the next month, dental plans often come with a delay between enrollment and the actual onset of coverage for some or all services. It could be six months to a year or more.
After you are approved and sign up for a plan, you can often use it within 24 hours, but it can sometimes take up to 72 hours for it to go into effect. Some plans offer additional savings on things like prescriptions, hearing care, and vision care. Some plans also include discounts on things like cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics. These plans charge an affordable membership fee that can start as low as $10 per month. In order to get set up, you do have to pay a fee of around $15, but this cost is sometimes offset by giving you a free month on your plan.
There can sometimes be significant differences between the dental insurance plans that employers sponsor and those that you obtain as an individual. One big (and obvious) difference is that usually employers pay for part or all of the dental insurance plan, whereas if you're buying a plan by yourself you have to pay for the whole thing. Some employers are also able to get a better deal because they're buying insurance in in bulk for all their employees. But, if you shop around, you could potentially get a plan that is similarly priced or even cheaper.
More than 90 percent of dental insurance policies carry a “missing tooth clause” or a “replacement clause.” Many include at least one of these clauses, but most have both. A missing tooth clause protects the insurance company from paying for the replacement of a tooth that was missing before the policy was in effect. For example, if you lost a tooth before your coverage started and later decided that you would like to have a partial, bridge or implant, the insurance company would not have to pay for that service if they have a missing tooth clause in the plan. A replacement clause is similar except that the insurance company won’t pay to replace procedures such as dentures, partials or bridges until the specified time limit has passed.
But for many, the perceived high cost of dental insurance is one of the key factors that is keeping them from getting a policy. Luckily, there are a number of different options for people at different price points. According to the National Association of Dental Plans, the average annual cost of coverage in 2009 (the most recent year the survey was conducted) for a dental HMO plan was around $225 per year for an individual or $445 per family, the cost of a dental PPO plan averaged around $285 for an individual and $866 per family, and indemnity plans cost an average of $288 for an individual and $666 for a family.
“Humana” is the brand name for plans, products, and services provided by one or more of the subsidiaries and affiliate companies of Humana Inc. (“Humana Entities”). Plans, products, and services are solely and only provided by one or more Humana Entities specified on the plan, product, or service contract, not Humana Inc. Not all plans, products, and services are available in each state.
Because dental is not included in Original Medicare (unless medically necessary) or Medigap supplement plans, seniors must look elsewhere for dental coverage. So, dental insurance for seniors on Medicare can seem like a chore. But getting dental insurance when you’re using Medicare isn’t difficult, limited, or expensive. In fact, there are two different paths to take in order to find inexpensive coverage options.
Medicare recipients are legally permitted to purchase dental plans on the ACA Marketplace, but the process isn’t easy. As noted in the section above, stand-alone dental plans are not eligible for subsidies. And in the states where the ACA Marketplace is run by the federal government, dental coverage is available only to those who also buy health insurance.
The cost of not taking care of your oral health could be more. Those without individual dental coverage are less likely to get routine dental care, meaning they seek out a dentist only when they have a problem. By then, more extensive and more expensive measures may be necessary, and major problems linked to poor oral health (like heart disease and diabetes) are more likely to appear.2 Doing nothing now means you might pay more later.