I recently met with Shirley, a prospective client for Medicare Supplement Insurance. She was shocked to find out that Medicare did not cover any dental costs. She said, “I don’t understand, good dental health and overall health go hand in hand”. I agreed, research shows oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more. Unfortunately, that was not widely known at that time Medicare was implemented in 1965. Now, Medicare can not afford to pay out more benefits. Medicare beneficiaries need to purchase a separate policy if they want that coverage.
As it turns out, I can help. If you think insurance is hard to understand, dental Insurance is even more complicated and there are lots of choices. I begin by asking questions such as do you presently have a dentist and if so, are you willing to change? I ask that because a lot of available plans offer benefits only if you use their network providers. How often do you get your teeth cleaned? Do you routinely use services other that just preventative ones?
Consumers usually see the most savings when using a network type plan. This is because the insurance company has negotiated a significant discount. These savings get passed on to you. But, a lot of dentists do not work with any dental insurance plans or limit the ones they participate with. In that case, I recommend an “indemnity” type plan. With this type of plan, you can go to any dentist and get reimbursed for a portion of the expenses. Usually, the longer you keep your plan, the better the benefits.
I explain that either type of dental insurance can save significant money but it is not going to cover all the expenses. There are waiting periods, deductibles, co-insurance costs and usually a limited amount of coverage to consider. Occasionally, self-insuring may be the best choice.
Personally, I have a combination dental, vision and hearing plan that lets me go to whatever dentist I want. I get my prescription glasses at the warehouse-type stores where I really save. I love it because it really helps me budget my expenses and encourages me to take care of myself on a regular basis.
In case you are wondering, Shirley chose a dental plan that also included a membership to her local YMCA. The cost of the plan was lower than a regular membership fee. The dental coverage was like a free added benefit.