When shopping for the best dental plans for seniors, you should consider what services and treatments you might need, the costs of the plan, and what the plan covers. The dental needs of seniors could depend on the condition of their current teeth and their dental history. For example, if you already have full dentures, you may be more concerned about getting checked for oral cancer than in cavity treatment or bridges.
The cost estimates provided may be different from your actual costs for several reasons, including but not limited to, your unique dental circumstances and the decisions made by you and your dental professionals as to what services you will receive, deviations between the anticipated scope of services and the services actually provided, and the characteristics of your particular plan.
Preventive care may seem optional if you have healthy teeth and good oral hygiene, but it saves money in the long run. I went without dental insurance for three years in my twenties, and did what most of my peers did in that situation – simply didn’t visit the dentist. Then I enrolled in a graduate program which required students to have medical and dental coverage. At my first dental visit, I had numerous cavities. Getting them all filled required nine or ten appointments in the nine months of my academic year.
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.
Another benefit is that you have more flexibility when it comes to choosing what type of plan you want. When you work for an employer, they choose which plan they believe would be right for the majority of their workers. But you might not need the same type of coverage as the person who works in the cubicle next to you. By buying an individual plan, you're able to customize and purchase exactly what you need. For that reason, your coverage can actually be less expensive than if you had an employer-sponsored plan – especially if you had to pay for part of your premiums.
Dental savings plans are different than dental insurance. Dental savings plans provide you with a list of dentists who will give you a discount because you’re a member of the savings plan. Usually, these are quite generous discounts and can save you a significant amount of money on your dental care. Sometimes the discount can be well over 50% for things like preventative care, but it tends to be a little less for other types of care.
Maintaining oral health can be more challenging for seniors and people with certain disabilities. This may be due to an inability to brush their teeth properly, as well as an increased use of medications. Plus, as we grow older, our teeth become less sensitive, so we may not notice a problem until it is too late. All of these factors make it even more important to protect your dental health as you age.1
The next thing that you need to look at is the yearly enrollment fee that you will be charged. This fee can vary widely between insurers. For example, Humana only charges an enrollment fee when you first enroll and not in any year afterwards. Other insurers will charge you an enrollment fee every year. These fees are generally under $50 per year, so if you find an insurer that is charging you more make sure that it’s worth it to you because you’re saving on the plan elsewhere.
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.
Blue Cross Blue Shield has a plan called BlueCare that does not have a waiting period for preventative services and many non-surgical procedures. United Healthcare's United Health One is another. Major surgical treatments and restorative work do require some wait time, though that can be curtailed to some extent if you're coming off another dental plan.
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.
Estimating your possible dental costs may help you decide whether dental insurance would be financially beneficial. Dental insurance companies will show you a quote online so you can easily see what your premiums might be. You may want to compare your estimated yearly premiums to the cost of a year of procedures you want to have done. You can estimate how much your dental expenses might be either by talking with your dentist, or by researching costs online. You can use the estimates to help you decide whether you should pay out of pocket or plan your dental expenses based on your insurance coverage. Two resources for looking up procedure costs are The Fair Health Consumer Organization and the Guardian Insurance website. Estimated costs are sorted by zip code and will show a low and high rate so you can see a range of what a procedure may cost in your area.
The longer you stay with Spirit Dental, more each plan pays out and the higher your savings. For example, with one plan’s basic dental procedures are covered at 65 percent the first year, 80 percent the second year and 90 percent the third year. Major procedures on that plan follow the same timeline at 25 to 65 percent coverage. All plans cover preventative care at 100 percent. You can bundle EyeMed vision insurance for $7 per month with each 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.
Under the federal law, dental benefits are an optional service for state Medicaid programs. States can include adult dental benefits in their Medicaid programs. Many states do provide dental benefits for adults; however the status and extent of those benefits vary by state and by year, depending on the availability of state funds to support such benefits.
Delta Dental PPO Value for Seniors has nationwide coverage, but may only be purchased for seniors whose primary residence is in Massachusetts. Delta Dental of Massachusetts PPO insurance products are offered by Dental Service of Massachusetts, Inc. An Independent Licensee of the Delta Dental Plans Association. ®Registered Marks of the Delta Dental Plans Association. ©2016 DSM.
*The 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.
*Examples only. These are the average costs the patient will pay per procedure with an in-network provider and are based on averages across Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Manhattan and Saint Louis. Actual costs and savings may vary by provider, geographic area, and service received. There are limitations and exclusions to the discount available. For example, general anesthesia, implants, and/or cosmetic dentistry are not discounted services. Upon purchase, refer to your policy for more information on the limitations and exclusions that apply. Coinsurance listed is for Prime Plan C.