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.
You may have a preexisting oral health condition that is not covered by your current dental policy. Because discount plans are not insurance, they have no waiting periods. You can sign up today and be at the dentist in 30 minutes. If you’ve reached your annual maximum, you can use a discount plan to pay for a procedure you have been reluctant to get because of the out-of-pocket expense.

“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.

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).
In general the dental insurance companies at the top of our review list provide a range of plan options to numerous areas of the country. We also considered average yearly preventive care costs across numerous zip codes and compared that number to possible yearly premium costs. This helps predict whether the premium costs would, on average, be less than the cost of preventive care paid out of pocket. Keep in mind that co-pays and other small fees might also determine whether you will break even by paying for dental insurance, but our numbers can give you a general idea of what you can expect. It was not surprising to learn that those who charge a higher premium may cover more and those with a lower premium might cover less. This means that if you pay more monthly you might receive more complete coverage, and if you pay less per month you might be expected to pay a bit more during the time of treatment. So you'll need to decide whether you want to pay more per month or make up a bit of the difference when you visit your dentist.
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Like most kinds of health or ancillary medical insurance, there are deductibles involved in dental insurance. Generally, the deductibles are per individual or per family depending on your plan. Some companies require that you meet the deductible on each member of your family while others have a family amount that you have to hit – no matter who the person receiving the care was. Deductibles can range anywhere from $100 to $500 or more. Obviously, the higher your deductible, the less likely you’ll be to take full advantage of your insurance.
However, if your insurance does not cover cleaning and preventative care at 100%, then you will have to pay the remaining costs of your visit. This can cost anywhere from $20 to over $100 depending on the type of care you’re getting and the percentage covered. If you’re getting a PHMO plan, it is easier to estimate your costs since all procedures conducted in their network will have fees, but if you’re going to your own dentist then it will simply be a percentage of whatever they charge.
My plan covered cavity fillings, but an additional procedure (like a crown or an extraction) would have been costly even with insurance. Multiple appointments also took up a lot of time. I could have spared myself some of those cavities, and long hours in the dentist’s chair, if I’d got regular cleanings in earlier years (and, of course, flossed more often).
*Out-of-network/non-contracted providers are under no obligation to treat Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan members, except in emergency situations. For a decision about whether we will cover an out-of-network service, we encourage you or your provider to ask us for a pre-service organization determination before you receive the service. Please call our customer service number or see your Evidence of Coverage for more information, including the cost-sharing that applies to out-of-network services.
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For those seniors who enjoy good dental health and are looking mainly for preventive care and basic services, Ameritas Dental may be a good option to consider. For those looking to save money, if you only need one preventive/maintenance checkup per year, you can buy a dental plan through Ameritas that will cost less than plans with more services. The company also offers a dental rewards program where you can roll over unused coverage from one policy term to the next if you did not use dental services during the year.
UnitedHealthcare has a large number on in-network preferred providers, over 200,000, so you won’t have any trouble finding a dentist in the plan. Cleanings and X-rays are covered 100 percent. Here are the charges you pay for basic services: exam - $25; root canal - 50 percent; fililngs - 30 percent; extractions - 30 percent. The coverage has no age maximum limitations. Deductible limits are $50 - individual, $150 - family of three with a 6-12 month waiting period for certain services. Cleanings and X-rays are covered with zero co-pay or deductible twice yearly.
(AL – 662369), (AK – 100116668), (AZ – 1039447), (AR – 100108201), (CA – 0I22561), (CO – 419732), (CT – 2424421), (DE – 1326873), (DI – 3041371), (FL – L088857), (GA – 172259), (HI – 423474), (ID – 439793), (IL – 100640719), (ID – 869503), (IA – 1002207278), (KS – 461715304-0), (KY – DOI-805173), (LA – 582580), (ME – AGN213175), (MD – 2112735), (MA – 1930638), (MI – 100259), (MN – 40325516), (MS – 15021382), (MO – 8287507), (MT – 770689), (NE – 100196040), (NV – 876621), (NH – 2268499), (NJ – 1515723), (NM – 100012274), (NY – LA-1375260), (NC – 461715304), (ND – 2000115021), (OH – 985962), (OK – 100151491), (OR – 100213920), (PA – 666488), (SC – 193263),(SD – 10016345), (TN – 2238715), (TX – 1821698), (UT – 436588), (VT – 873256), (VA – 133866), (WA – 828648), (WV – 100149165), (WI – 100196806), (WY – 238959)
I could have paid the average of $360 a year for a dental policy in my twenties. Or I could have paid out of pocket for two dental exams, including cleanings and X-rays, which, in 2011, cost an average of $370 combined. In that case dental insurance wouldn’t have saved me much money. And if I went to a dental school or clinic for treatment, I could have saved even more on out-of-pocket costs.
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.
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1DeltaCare USA is underwritten in these states by these entities: AL — Alpha Dental of Alabama, Inc.; AZ — Alpha Dental of Arizona, Inc.; CA — Delta Dental of California; AR, CO, IA, MA, ME, MI, MN, NC, ND, NE, NH, OK, OR, RI, SC, SD, VT, WA, WI, WY — Dentegra Insurance Company; AK, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, KS, LA, MS, MT, TN, WV — Delta Dental Insurance Company; HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, MD, MO, NJ, OH, TX — Alpha Dental Programs, Inc.; NV — Alpha Dental of Nevada, Inc.; UT — Alpha Dental of Utah, Inc.; NM — Alpha Dental of New Mexico, Inc.; NY — Delta Dental of New York, Inc.; PA — Delta Dental of Pennsylvania; VA – Delta Dental of Virginia. Delta Dental Insurance Company acts as the DeltaCare USA administrator in all these states. These companies are financially responsible for their own products. The plan is a dental HMO in CA and TX.
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