If your healthcare plan doesn’t offer dental coverage, or your dental care needs exceed the limits of your insurance plan, you may want to consider purchasing supplemental dental insurance.
Supplemental dental insurance is an individual or family insurance policy purchased separately from a primary dental insurance plan to help pay for fees left uncovered by that main plan. It reduces the money you may have to pay for a variety of procedures, such as root canals, and may help cut the costs of braces, dentures, and standard preventive care, such as teeth cleanings.
Before you go about purchasing supplemental insurance of any kind, find out whether your employer offers insurance benefits for which you qualify and, if so, what those benefits are. Your employer may offer a gold-plated dental plan that will keep your smile bright and your teeth straight for very little cost to you. In that case, supplemental dental insurance may not be worth the price.
While you may be covered by a good dental plan, you still may find it worthwhile to purchase supplemental coverage for a short period. Perhaps, you’re going to need dental implants, or one of your children will need braces. You might want to buy supplemental coverage to span the time it will take to complete those treatments. Or, maybe you’ll decide to keep a supplemental plan from the time your first child is born until the time your last child graduates college and goes off on his or her own.
Supplemental dental insurance policies tend to be broad in scope and variety. They may have no annual spending limits or deductibles, no waiting periods or exclusions for previous dental conditions. You can find coverage for specific items, such as braces, by buying a base policy and adding a rider to cover the cost of all that metal and plastic going into your kid’s mouth – and all those trips to the orthodontist.
Still, you need to do a good job estimating the expected cost of the procedures you want covered so that you can determine what will be cheaper – paying out of pocket as you go, or paying a regular premium for supplemental dental insurance.
Here are questions to ask yourself before you decide:
- Is supplemental dental insurance important to me, given my dental history and that of my family?
- Do I have primary dental insurance? A good primary plan will make supplemental coverage superfluous.
- What does supplemental dental insurance cover?
Supplemental dental insurance comes in a variety of packages. Make sure what you buy is cost-effective.
- How do my primary dental insurance plan provider and my supplemental provider coordinate their coverages and payments?
- Coordinating benefits will affect how much you pay out of pocket, as well as a task that will require regular monitoring and paperwork on your part.
- Are there details in these plans to which I should pay attention? Yes. There may be waiting periods before coverage starts; some plans limit what they’ll cover and how much they’ll spend annually.
Alternatives to supplemental dental insurance
Insurance companies offer discount plans that guarantee members a lower payment schedule in exchange for an annual fee or monthly premium.
Medicare has limited or no coverage for vision, hearing, dental and long-term care, forcing people to purchase supplemental dental insurance absent from their basic policies. For instance, Medicare doesn’t cover routine checkups or dentures.
Low-income Americans can get dental coverage through their state Medicaid programs, which will pay for basic dental services. Otherwise, Medicare supplemental insurance policies – also known as Medigap – or a Medicare Advantage plan can help cover the cost of dental services.
If you or your family needs more dental benefits, either because you have exceeded your plan’s annual maximum or because your plan doesn’t cover a needed procedure, then you’ll likely have specific needs. If you have exceeded your annual maximum, you may want to look at picking up an HMO dental insurance plan, which features no annual limits and no deductibles.
When discussing dental treatment plans with your dentist, you may also ask what insurance options may be available to someone in your place. After all, the dentist office staff has to become an expert in the insurance marketplace to ensure its own bills are paid on time. Don’t hesitate to get your dentist’s opinion or that of the dental office manager regarding which insurance plan meets your needs.
If you don’t have a choice about what dental insurance plan you purchase, don’t panic. You can always fill in the gaps in your coverage with a supplemental dental insurance policy or a dental savings plan.
AAA members have access to a dental plan that won’t break the bank. Click here to see if AAA’s dental insurance plan is right for you.