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.
Seniors have special dental needs that come with getting older such as root decay, gum disease, tooth loss and more. Even non-dental conditions common to seniors, such as arthritis, can affect dental health. For those coming off of an employee group health plan upon after retiring, coverage may not be extended after you leave your job, leaving you to find your own dental coverage. Most plans have a waiting period for coverage, so this can leave you without coverage for a period of time.
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).
As time passes, many seniors leave dental coverage (and vision and hearing) behind. Then, when they need it, it is too late. Waiting can be devastating in some cases as many insurances have waiting periods for certain services. For example, a routine filling for a cavity typically requires a 6-month wait. If you can’t wait that long, you will have to pay the cost in full.
Before deciding to purchase dental insurance, talk with your dentist regarding the extent of your treatment plan. This way you can decide if you would be better off with or without dental insurance. A very important factor to remember regarding any dental insurance plan is that dental insurance is not at all similar to medical insurance. The majority of dental insurance plans are designed with the purpose of only covering the basic dental care around $1,000 to $1,500 (about the same amount that they covered 30 years ago) per year and is not intended to provide comprehensive coverage like that of medical insurance.
One example of a plan that is offered through eHealth is the Dominion Dental Services PPO Discount plan which has no deductible. They provide 100% coverage on most preventative and diagnostic procedures and 45% to 60% coverage on all other procedures including children’s orthodontics. They have no maximum annual benefit and they have no waiting period for things like cleaning, extractions, x-rays, and oral surgery but they have waiting periods but you have to use a dentist within their network.
The short answer here is that there isn’t one. In fact, a better question to ask is “What is the best dental insurance for me?”. One key point that is important for seniors to understand about any type of insurance is the fact that we are all unique and individual. When you consider dental insurance your choice should be 100 percent about you. Even the best plan for your spouse might not be the best plan for you.
For freedom of choice, there are a few types of plans to consider including PPO dental plans and Indemnity plans. PPO dental plans generally allow members to see any dentist, but they also include a listing of In Network dentists. With PPO’s you typically get more value if you see an In Network provider, but you can still choose to see an Out of Network provider too. Though Out of Network providers can bill for additional charges if they wish.
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.
* Premium initial quote for basic and premiere benefit level. Actual benefits and rates vary by state. The supplemental benefits referenced are taken from PPO Dental Policy Form CH DEN PPO TX 417, or its state variation which is underwritten by The Chesapeake Life Insurance Company. Administrative offices located in North Richland Hills, TX. Product availability varies by state. A complete list of benefits, exclusions and limitations is available upon request. Please contact a licensed agent and refer to the Policy.
While some financial planners suggest dental insurance may not be worth paying for, we did the math to discover that it is usually worth it, provided you attend all of your allowable preventive exams and cleanings. We also learned that if you need any type of work such as a root canal or filling, you will definitely notice a cost savings. However, premiums vary greatly, not only by the type of plan, but by location and age. So you'll want to obtain a few quotes for insurance companies that provide coverage in your area. You'll also want to verify that your dentist accepts your chosen insurance before you sign up with a new provider.
Your Current Dental Health – Do you have pending dental needs, such as needing dentures, extractions, crown replacement, etc? This is all about the state of your mouth, teeth, and oral tissue today and for the next six months. That time frame is important because many dental insurance policies have a waiting period before you can use their benefits. For most, that period is six months.
“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.