Avoid painful dental bills with insurance
Does the sound of a dentist's drill set your teeth
on edge? Consider how much greater your anxiety would be if you
had no dental insurance.
Forty-six percent of the population doesn't, according
to the National Association of Dental Plans.
Individual coverage is available, but finding
the right policy can take a little digging. And, like the group
coverage offered through employers, it doesn't always pay for everything.
Some dental insurance professionals
believe that individual policies are more expensive and in some
cases less comprehensive than you might get with a group plan. "There's
not a big market out there," says Evelyn Ireland, executive
director of the National Association of Dental Plans.
Monthly premiums average anywhere from $12 to $50
for one person, according to the association.
Consumers buying their own coverage have to look beyond
first-year premium quotes, says Jeff Album, director of public affairs
for Delta Dental of California, New York and Pennsylvania. Some
companies will offer a great rate for the first year, during which
you face a mandatory waiting period for many services. Then the
company hikes the rate for the second year.
It's an area that's rife with fraud. Many times the
plans are offered by "questionable sources," says Ireland.
Her advice: go with employee-sponsored coverage when you can. When
you can't, be prepared to do some research to make sure you get
both a good company and a good deal.
Both the National
Association of Dental Plans and Delta
Dental list plans by state. You can also contact an insurance
broker or your current insurance carrier. Sometimes the state dental
society can tell you what plans are offered in your vicinity. And
don't forget your dentist's office. Often they are enrolled in a
network or discount plan. Ask which plans or discounts would apply.
Three kinds of coverage
There are three types of dental insurance coverage, says Ireland,
and all three should be licensed by your state:
Dental HMOs: Similar to a traditional HMO.
You have a limited selection of dentists, but this type of plan
offers the best deal in terms of limiting out-of-pocket costs, says
Ireland. Premium costs are also likely to be most affordable. The
average premium for single coverage: $13 per month, according to
the National Association of Dental Plans.
Many times, HMOs will guarantee one or two dentists
within 15 miles of home or work, says Album.
HMOs tend to encourage preventative care, so things
such as sealants or topical fluoride treatments may be covered for
adults, where they might not be on typical PPO or regular insurance
plans, says Ireland.
And many times preventative care will be reimbursed
at 100 percent, says Album. As treatment gets more restorative and
complicated, reimbursement rates can drop to 50 percent or below,
Dental PPOs: If you go to a dentist in the
network you'll pay one set of prices. Or you can take a lower reimbursement
percentage to see a dentist who is not in the plan. But if you do,
expect to front the entire bill until the PPO reimburses you, says
The average monthly premium for single coverage
is $30, according to the NADP.