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Unfortunately, Original Medicare (Parts A and B) does not include coverage for services like dental exams, cleanings, fillings, crowns, bridges, plates, or dentures. There are some exceptions, such as when a hospital stay is involved, but otherwise, you would have to pay out of pocket for any routine dental services. For some of us, those expenses could add up quickly.
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.
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Preventive care is 100% covered with 2 exams and 3 cleanings free per year. There is a $100 deductible that you only pay once for the life of your plan. After the deductible is met, the plans cover between 80% to 90% of all basic care and 50% to 65% of major work including crowns, bridges, implants, and root canals. Orthodontia is covered at 50% and all plans are highly affordable, with their lowest individual plan often running at less than $115 per month depending on your region. Their highest-tier plan offers a $5,000 maximum benefit per year but isn’t available in every state.
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.
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).
There are many insurance companies that offer dental services to seniors. Many are part of the group of insurance companies that fall under Medicare part C. While every insurance company under Medicare Part C offers the same medical coverage as Medicare Part A and Part B, they sometimes offer additional services such as dental coverage. Even so, the types of dental coverages that they offer are not identical.
Humana individual dental plans are insured or offered by Humana Insurance Company, HumanaDental Insurance Company, Humana Insurance Company of New York, The Dental Concern, Inc., CompBenefits Insurance Company, CompBenefits Company, CompBenefits Dental, Inc., Humana Employers Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., Humana Health Benefit Plan of Louisiana, Inc., or DentiCare, Inc. (DBA CompBenefits). Discount plans are offered by HumanaDental Insurance Company, Humana Insurance Company, or Texas Dental Plans, Inc. Arizona residents insured by Humana Insurance Company. Texas residents insured or offered by Humana Insurance Company, HumanaDental Insurance Company, or DentiCare, Inc. (DBA CompBenefits).