A PPO, or preferred provider organization, is the most common type of dental insurance. This plan has arranged reduced rates with dentists. These dentists are called in-network because they will work with the insurance company. You can go out of network if you have a PPO plan, but you will not get the benefit of the reduced rates. It’s best to check to see if your preferred dentist is in-network before you buy insurance.
Aetna’s dental discount network includes over 161,000 dentists, and Careington says over 100,000 dentists participate in their plan. We searched for providers from a less populated location in the U.S. and found no dentists from the Aetna plan while the Careington plan had four dentists, although the offices were located 100 miles from the zip we used. If there are no providers available in a reasonable distance from your home, you can nominate dentists, and Careington will contact them to request participation. Dental providers usually join the network within 60-90 days.
If you're wondering if the Affordable Care Act of 2014, also known as Obamacare, affects dental coverage – it does. You can buy health coverage through the online health insurance marketplace that includes dental coverage. You can also purchase a standalone dental insurance plan through the health insurance marketplace, but in order to do so you have to also purchase a standalone health plan through the marketplace.
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Although discount plans are also sold by private companies, they are not insurance plans. There are no copays, coinsurance, or deductible amounts. That also means that there are no pre-negotiated rates or free yearly checkups and cleanings. A participating dentist simply agrees to offer discounts (often a percentage off from the total price) for certain medical services. Then, seniors who choose discount plans will pay their dentist directly for the cost of services (after the discount).
When you near the age of 65, you need to sign up for Medicare. However, Medicare does not cover preventative dental care or other procedures such as fillings, tooth extractions, dentures or other dental devices. If you have a complicated or emergency dental procedure that requires hospitalization, Medicare Part A will likely cover the cost, but it is obviously preferable to avoid hospitalization if you can with regularly-scheduled dental care.
One example of a Humana insurance plan is their Dental Loyalty Plus package that has a one time deductible of $150 per person or $450 for family. Unlike other plans where the deductible must be paid annually, their deductible lasts as long as you keep the plan. The maximum benefits of the plan in the first year are $1,000, in the second year are $1,250, and in the third year are $1,500. Preventative services are covered at 100%, basic services start with coverage at 40%, but coverage goes up to 70% by the third year, and major services start at 20% coverage and go up to 50% coverage by the third year.
The final kind of dental insurance is indemnity dental coverage. These plans allow you to visit any dentist and they will pay a fee for the procedures you have done. They calculate a set amount that they’ll pay for each type of procedure and any additional amount would have to be paid by you out-of-pocket. They also have an annual maximum which can sometimes be higher than other types of plans. One of the downsides is that you have to pay for all the services upfront and submit paperwork in order to get reimbursed.
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).
Different companies provide various percentages of coverage in these areas. For example, one insurance provider might cover 100% of the cost of Class I services while another might only cover 80%. Yet another plan might not provide Class IV or orthodontic coverage, but provide coverage in all other areas. It’s important that you understand what services are covered before signing up for a plan.
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.