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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.
Each plan will provide dental coverage for a variety of dental needs, but are not always the same. What they might or might not cover includes dental services such as root canals, deep cleanings, and restorative procedures. When they do cover these services they do so only partially and the senior must either pay out of pocket or have a secondary dental insurance plan. Most plans for seniors pay for routine care, such as an annual cleaning, but require a copayment or co-insurance for other services.
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.
Generally, the more complete the coverage that you are buying, the more expensive your monthly premiums will be. Dental savings plans tend to have lower monthly premiums but often not by as much as you would expect. While dental saving plans can cost under $10, there are affordable dental insurance plans that can start for as little as $20 per month and so they might be the better choice. You might have the option of paying your monthly premiums in an annual lump sum. If you can afford to do so, you generally pay a lower amount overall.
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.
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DHMO's are similar to HMOs in that their plans connect you with a network of dentists who give you care for a low monthly premium. With DHMO plans, you are required to go see dentists who are in their network, but in return you have lower costs, and no claim forms to fill out. DHMOs are great for preventative care and basic procedures. Some downsides include that there can be wait times if you need major or restorative dental care and some DHMOs don’t cover this types of treatment. You also need to go see your primary care dentist and get a referral to a specialist in order to get some specialized care.
Once you purchase a dental insurance plan and start paying your premiums, most preventive care like cleanings and check-ups are covered immediately. For more serious procedures, after you meet your deductible, you’ll only be responsible to pay your percentage of the cost. And we’ll pay the rest. Also, some dental plans have an out-of-pocket maximum to protect you from high costs throughout the year. On some plans, if you reach this maximum, we’ll pay the full cost of any additional care until your annual maximum benefit is met.
Some of the benefits of a Carrington dental plan are the low fees, the fact there is no waiting, and that you can choose your own dentist amongst their network. There are also no limits on your coverage and you don't have to fill out any paperwork. Some downsides are that you will likely end up paying more for your procedures than if you had one of the best dental insurance plans.
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.
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).
If you are a senior or are approaching retirement, you may be surprised to find out that Medicare does not provide coverage for routine dental care. Medicare mainly covers medical treatments, but does not provide any assistance for routine dental care such as bi-annual exams, cleanings, or even major services like bridges or dentures. This leaves it to seniors to search for a dental plan that can meet their coverage needs.