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What Choices Do Seniors Have for Dental Benefits in Flint?
Receiving regular dental care is important as you age, but many seniors find themselves without access to affordable dentistry. Seniors leaving the workforce lose their medical coverage, and that often means losing their dental plan as well. In fact, approximately two-thirds of adults over 65 report having no dental insurance. That number is expected to increase as 10,000 people reach age 65 every day.
While many seniors lack dental coverage, spending on dentistry is up as a whole. In 2016, more than $28 billion was spent on dental services by seniors. Plus, seniors represent the highest increase in spending among all demographics. They’re also seeing the dentist more than ever before – the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reported that 6 million more seniors saw a dentist in 2016 than they did in 2006. However, among Medicare recipients, the situation is not as positive – nearly half of them did not see a dentist last year. Nineteen percent of Medicare recipients who did see a dentist faced out-of-pocket costs of over $1,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The list below reveals some of the prices of common dental procedures:
Checkups and Cleanings:
- Basic exam–$50 to $100
- Dental X-ray–$20 to $250
- Standard cleaning–$70 to $200
- Silver amalgam–$50 to $300
- Composite–$90 to $450
- Simple extraction–$75 to $450
- Surgical extraction–$150 to $650
- Wisdom tooth extraction–$75 to $3,000 based on the number and complexity of the extractions
The cost of a crown can range from $500 to $3,000 based on the type of material used.
The cost of a root canal can range from $300 to $2,000 based on the location of the tooth and the complexity of the procedure.
Do Seniors Have Choices for Dental Insurance?
Seniors over age 65 or individuals who are permanently disabled receive Medicare coverage provided by the United States government. Once you reach 65, you are automatically enrolled and will receive a red, white, and blue ID card to use when receiving care. Medicare covers a variety of medical procedures, but it does not include basic dental services such as routine exams, root canals, and tooth crowns. There can be exceptions, however, if a dental exam is required for presurgical clearance or as part of a covered procedure.
Medicare’s limitations cause many seniors to search for affordable dental benefits in Flint. One option is a Medicare Advantage plan, which 25% of seniors will choose. Private insurance is another option, with 10% of seniors opting to purchase coverage.
What Is a Medicare Advantage Supplement?
A Medicare Advantage Plan is an optional supplement that seniors can purchase to enhance their existing benefits. These supplements expand the qualified provider network, giving seniors more options when it comes to health care. Advantage plans also offer participants price protection in the form of low deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, and cost-sharing measures. While traditional Medicare expenses are reimbursed by the government, costs incurred under a supplement plan are reimbursed by the private company instead.
One key benefit of these supplements is that they often provide additional benefits for vision, prescription drugs, and other medical services. Enrollees also receive an ID card similar to an insurance card when they participate in a plan. Advantage plan providers include Aetna, UHC, and Humana.
Medicare Advantage plans are usually quite affordable for seniors – on average, the annual cost of an Advantage plan is about $420 annually. It’s important to note that many supplement plans are limited to preventive care, such as routine dental exams and cleanings. Those needing extensive dental work may find a traditional insurance plan to be more cost-effective.
What Do Standalone Insurance Plans Cover?
Standalone insurance plans often provide more comprehensive coverage than a supplement plan. These plans are provided by insurance companies and are available at different levels of coverage. Your monthly premiums, what services are covered, and your copay or coinsurance obligations will depend on the level of coverage you need. There are three common types of coverage, including:
With a basic plan, most preventive and diagnostic services are covered, including professional cleanings and routine exams.
More enhanced coverage is available with a mid-level plan, including orthodontic care, emergency dentistry, specialized X-rays, inhalation sedations, and tooth crowns and fillings.
Premium plans offer the most coverage, including partial or full benefits for advanced dental treatment like oral surgeries. Plans also include coverage for more complicated restorations. The following services are often covered under a premium plan:
- Inlays and onlays
- Endodontic treatment
- Oral surgery
- Tooth crowns and bridges
- Full and partial dentures
- Gum disease treatment
With a standalone insurance plan, your dental benefits in Flint may be determined using a “100-80-50” system. Under this type of plan, routine services like cleanings and exams are fully covered, basic procedures are covered at 80%, and more complicated procedures are covered at 50%. Standalone dental insurance is typically affordable, with the average cost of a plan only $350 each year, according to Bankrate. This is slightly lower in cost than an Advantage plan, but keep in mind that standalone plans do not provide additional savings on vision care, prescriptions, or hearing supplements.
Should I Use a Dental Discount Plan as an Insurance Alternative?
A dental discount plan is offered by a private company much like standalone insurance, but it’s important to note that discount plans are not insurance. Instead, members pay a small monthly fee to save on routine dental care. The discount provider pre-negotiates lower fees with the dental center and passes the savings on to members. Discount plan members receive a membership card and pay the dentist directly at the time of service.
Many seniors choose dental discount plans due to their benefits over traditional insurance, which include:
- There are no copays, coinsurance requirements, or deductibles
- There is no waiting period before receiving services
- No restrictions on how often you can see a dentist
- No long forms or paperwork to fill out, and no claims process
- Discount plans do not have age limits or exclusions for preexisting dental conditions
While discount plans generally do not offer comprehensive coverage like a traditional standalone dental insurance plan, they can make routine care more affordable. Discounted services often include:
- Regular dental exams and professional cleanings
- Diagnostic X-rays
- Tooth crowns
- Root canals
- Dental fillings
- Tooth crowns
DentRite® is one popular discount plan provider that offers additional savings at vision care centers, hearing aid manufacturers, and pharmacies. Seniors with few dental health problems who will only need maintenance may be great candidates for a dental discount plan; however, traditional insurance may be a better option if you require extensive treatment. Please give us a call if you have questions.
Are Dental Payment Plans a Good Option?
When on a budget, using flexible financing can help make larger dental expenses more manageable. One financing provider is CareCredit, which is accepted at over 200,000 healthcare centers nationwide. Many providers offer low- or zero-interest promotional financing for short-term purchases and long-term financing for up to 60 months on large purchases. While payment plans can make it easier to pay off a dental balance, they do have some disadvantages:
- Payment plans often involve a credit check and application, so not every person will qualify.
- Interest rates on dental financing can sometimes be high, ranging from 15-20%. This adds to the overall cost of care.
We’re here to help if you have additional questions about Medicare Advantage plans, discount options, flexible financing, or other money-saving dental benefits in Flint. We also recommend contacting your local seniors’ organization or the AARP for additional resources.