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.
People buying their own dental insurance (as opposed to those covered by an employer's plan) sometimes get a nasty surprise when they sign up: a waiting period. Unlike regular health insurance, in which coverage usually starts immediately or at the beginning of the next month, dental plans often come with a delay between enrollment and the actual onset of coverage for some or all services. It could be six months to a year or more.
You’ll want to go to an in-network dentist as they usually have better, contracted rates. We’ll show an example of that in a minute. Cleaning or preventative care visits are typically covered at 100%. Basic or major services visits are typically covered at 80% and 50%, respectively. What does this mean? If you go to an in-network dentist for a tooth filling (80%) whose contracted rate is $200, you’ll have to pay $40 out of pocket ($200 X (1 – .80)).
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.
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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.
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.
AARP, Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and Delta Dental are a few of the many insurance companies that offer dental plans to seniors. Each company may offer more than one type of dental plan and it is important to pay close attention to more than just the cost of the dental policy. Choosing the best dental plan for a senior is a balancing act between cost, affordability, and need. A good approach is to start by understanding what the senior’s dental needs are and then make a table so that as you begin to compare the different dental plans you can narrow down those plans that are good and remove those plans that are either too costly for the coverage they provide or that do not fit the senior’s dental needs.
After you are approved and sign up for a plan, you can often use it within 24 hours, but it can sometimes take up to 72 hours for it to go into effect. Some plans offer additional savings on things like prescriptions, hearing care, and vision care. Some plans also include discounts on things like cosmetic dentistry, and orthodontics. These plans charge an affordable membership fee that can start as low as $10 per month. In order to get set up, you do have to pay a fee of around $15, but this cost is sometimes offset by giving you a free month on your plan.
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.
Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Group Universal Life (GUL) insurance plans are insured by CGLIC. Life (other than GUL), accident, critical illness, hospital indemnity, and disability plans are insured or administered by Life Insurance Company of North America, except in NY, where insured plans are offered by Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York (New York, NY). All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.
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