Three times as many Americans are without dental insurance then there are Americans without health insurance. Although many employers do provide health insurance plans, a dental insurance plan may not be available or may be too expensive for an employee to participate in.
In addition folks over 65 years of age who have traditional Medicare, even with the Part B supplement do not have a dental insurance plan.
Usually people try to make a decision between a dental insurance (indemnity) plan and a dental discount plan. So, what are the differences? Is it dental insurance better than a discount plan?
There are many kinds of dental insurance plans, almost as many as there are types of medical insurance. Dental insurance plans generally have a waiting period for pre-existing conditions of up to 12 months, then depending upon the plan, your pre-existing condition may be covered, but usually not for the full amount. In fact, most dental insurance plans have expensive co-pays, exclusions and limits. The Affordable Care Act that will be fully implemented next year only provides coverage for an estimated additional 5 million pediatric patients who are at high risk for dental problems and do not have the means to buy a traditional dental plan. Plans will be made available to these patients through each state Health Insurance Exchange.
Discount Dental Plans
Discount dental plans are not health insurance— they operate more like a “Costco.” Most dental plans are far less expensive than dental insurance plans. Each month you pay a fee which entitles you to receive deeply discounted dental services by experienced and licensed dentists. In fact, your present dentist most likely belongs to one or more dental discount plans. This could be an important factor when you decide if you’re going to purchase a membership in a dental discount plan.
With most dental discount plans there is no waiting period. If you need a dental service to address a long-standing problem you can immediately have the dental service started and you still get the full discount offered by your plan.
Another good feature about discount dental plans is that often you can use your discount dental plan with traditional dental insurance. The way this works is for you to first pay your discounted fee. Ask the dental office front desk for a copy of your bill which you then file with your dental insurance company. This strategy lessens your out-of-pocket costs and helps you extend your dental insurance so that you reach its maximums at a slower pace.
If your present employer-provided insurance includes dental insurance you must weigh the costs and benefits of joining a dental discount plan. Since the new healthcare reform law does not address dental insurance, it is possible that insurance companies will raise premiums for dental insurance to partially offset restrictions on medical care insurance. Therefore, folks who are self-insured or on Medicare might want to take a look at a dental discount plan. In addition, those of you who have dental indemnity insurance (not PPO or HMO) and have a need for extensive dental work may want to check out a discount dental plan to augment and lengthen the time it takes to reach dental insurance plan maximums. As with any major expenditure make sure to thoroughly investigate any discount dental plan you are interested in. Click here for more information.
Caution: this article only addresses discount dental plans with large numbers of dentists participating. Many dental providers have created their own discount plans which are not covered by the information in this article. As a general rule these providers are honest and ethical, but, scams have been reported more frequently for these provider specific plans.