If you are looking to reduce your costs associated with dental work, then you should consider getting dental insurance or a dental savings plan. While they are both useful for lowering prices for dental work, there are key differences in what they offer.
It is important to do your research on both options if you are trying to decide which option is best for you. Whereas dental insurance may be the best route for some people, it does not necessarily mean that it is the best choice for you as well. For more information about the different types of dental insurances and dental savings plans, the advantages of each option and more, refer to the sections below.
Understanding Dental Insurance
If you already have health insurance, then understanding dental insurance plans will not be difficult. With dental insurance, a monthly premium is paid by either you or your employer. Unlike health insurance, most dental health maintenance organization (HMO) plans do not require you to pay a deductible. In the event that there is a deductible, your insurance will either pay all or some of your dental expenses up to an agreed upon maximum. In most cases, the insurance company will pay your dentist directly for the dental expenses if the procedures are covered under your plan. If you sign a dental indemnity plan, then you may have to pay the bill upfront and receive reimbursements from the insurance company later.
You can expect dental insurance plans to come with a deductible, copays, waiting periods and policy maximums. Most deductibles range from $25 to $100 annually per person. After the deductible is paid, your plan will grant you benefits. Depending on your plan and the procedures you receive, your benefits will differ. If you are receiving a procedure falling under the preventative category, then your care will be fully covered. In the case that the services are not covered fully, you will only have to pay a small amount. This is only true for preventative care. You will have to pay more for extensive procedures. For more serious visits, you will have to pay a portion of the bill, but your insurance will still assist you with the bulk of the costs. Depending on the plan you choose, you may have to pay a percentage of the entire cost of the procedure. Other plans will require you to abide by a set schedule of benefits with specific amounts that you can receive for different procedures. Most dental plans have an annual maximum that typically ranges from $1,000 to $2,000. It is important to note that there are outliers on each end.
HMOs, PPOs and Indemnity Plans
If you are looking at HMO plans, then it is important to know the benefits that come with them. You can expect to see HMOs among employer-sponsored plans. They are not common in the individual market. Most of the time, available options will include an annual benefit maximum. For dental HMOs, you must choose a primary care dentist from the network that the plan has provided. It is important to note that any care you receive must be done through your primary dentist. HMOs do not usually cover out-of-network dental care. With dental HMOs, you should not have a benefit maximum. Dental HMOs usually have a set copay amount that you will have to pay prior to your procedure. A few of the procedures that you will only have to pay a copay for include dentures, soft tissue management and basic dental services.
Dental preferred provider organizations (PPOs) are somewhat similar to HMOs in that they request that you select dentists from the network provider, but most PPOs still provide partial benefits for dentist visits that are not with a dentist from the provided network. These plans do have an annual benefit maximum, unlike HMOs, and will cover a percentage of procedures, depending on the category that the procedure falls into. Procedures can be preventative, basic or major.
The last types of dental plans available are dental indemnity plans, which allow you to see any dentist, no matter if they are within the network or not. There are no network restrictions. With dental indemnity, plans cover a specified percentage of the “usual and customary” costs. If the dentist you are seeing charges more than the usual and customary cost, then you will have to pay more than you normally would have. While you have the option to use different dentists under this plan, dentists are not obligated to lower their prices because they are not a part of a network. Under this plan, you can expect to have a deductible and an annual benefit maximum, similar to PPOs.
It is important to know how dental insurance works before selecting one for coverage. Basic dental insurance premiums usually range from $20 to $50 a month for individuals. Family premiums can range from $50 to $150. If you are receiving a plan from your employer, then there is a possibility that they will pay a portion of the premium. If you are paying for the plan on your own, then you will be responsible for the full cost of the plan.
Dental Savings Plans
Dental savings plans, also known as discount plans, are different from dental insurance. Discount plans do not pay for any of your dental expenses. They simply help you procure services at a discount from participating dentists.
There are advantages to savings plans that include no deductibles, no waiting periods and no annual maximums. Discounts usually range from 10 to 60 percent when you receive normal dental work. If you are considering this option, then note that discount plans can cost as little as $100 annually for individuals and $150 for families.
If you are looking for a plan to cover extensive dental work in a small period of time, it is not ideal to have a dental insurance plan. Insurance plans have benefit caps and unexpected waiting periods. With a dental discount plan, you may be able to save a lot more money than with a dental insurance plan, especially if you have multiple procedures throughout the year. Since the annual cost of membership for discount plans is usually less than $150, you would still save more money through this route than you would by paying a monthly fee for insurance plans.
It is in your best interest to consult some of the dentists in your area and discuss their rates if you are considering a dental discount plan. They will tell you exactly how much you could save by using the plans. You should also keep in mind that dental discount plans are in no way affiliated with medical discount plans.
Other Discount Options
There are other ways to obtain dental discounts. There is a chance that a dentist will be willing to offer a discount to you if you agree to standing biannual appointments, paying cash when you visit or referring their services to other possible patients. If you are a new patient, then you may also be eligible to receive free exams and X-rays, as those are frequently offered to first-time visitors.
If there are dental schools in your area, then there may also be opportunities to receive discounts from them as well. Dental schools commonly offer reduced-cost dental care. A lot of communities also have charity programs for low-income patients.