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.
Medicare Advantage plans may offer routine dental care. Medicare Advantage is another way to get you Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) benefits from a private insurance company. A Medicare Advantage plan may offer routine vision as well as prescription drug coverage. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan you have to continue paying your Part B premium. Medicare Advantage plans must cover everything that Original Medicare covers except for hospice care which is still covered by Medicare Part A. The extent of the Medicare Advantage dental coverage may vary from plan to plan.
Another kind of dental insurance plan is a DPPO which is similar to a health insurance PPO plan. What they do is they work out lower rates with dentists that are in their network who are often referred to as their preferred providers. With this plan, you can visit a dentist outside of your network, but you will not be able to get these low rates and you will likely end up paying more. Many DPPOs provide coverage of preventative care, basic procedures, and major procedures, but they only provide a percentage of this care for each.
Another option for dental care is Medicaid, which covers some kinds of dental procedures if you meet the requirements. Medicare does not provide dental coverage. The ADA Foundation has provided dental care to 5.5 million children since 2003. They will direct you to a dentist that is near you. Another option is the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). It provides health coverage including dental coverage to over 7 million children under 19 years of age.
If you are on a policy that requires you to go to a participating provider, you should not be charged the difference between these two prices. A contracted dentist generally has an agreement with the insurance company to write off the difference in charges. If the policy allows you to go to a dentist or pediatric dentist of your choice, check the insurance company’s UCR fee guide against the fees that dentist charges. You may be required to pay the difference out of your pocket, however, you cannot put a price tag on quality dental care.
The cost of not taking care of your oral health could be more. Those without individual dental coverage are less likely to get routine dental care, meaning they seek out a dentist only when they have a problem. By then, more extensive and more expensive measures may be necessary, and major problems linked to poor oral health (like heart disease and diabetes) are more likely to appear.2 Doing nothing now means you might pay more later.