Avoid painful dental bills with insurance -- Page
Dental indemnity (traditional insurance) plans:
Much rarer when it comes to individual coverage. When you can
find it, the average monthly premium for single coverage is $40,
according to the NADP.
Can you get group coverage?
Just because you are buying as an individual doesn't mean you can't
get group coverage. Some credit unions, professional associations
and affinity groups, such as AARP, offer members access to group
dental. Under this system, you pick up the entire cost of the premium
and get the buying power of being included in a group.
For instance, AARP recently started offering a group
PPO plan to its members through Delta Dental. For one person, monthly
premiums range from $30 to $45, says Album. Many areas -- such as
preventative, diagnostic and restorative treatments, endodontics
and oral surgery -- are covered immediately, and the premium is
guaranteed for two years, he says.
Another group option: voluntary dental from an employer.
Again, you pay 100 percent of the premium but the terms are usually
better than with an individual plan.
"It might not be the best price in town, but
it might be better than buying individual dental insurance,"
says Donald H. Baggett, senior consultant, Benefit Resources Inc.
And if your employer offers the option of paying your premiums with
pretax dollars, that will offer a nice bit of savings, he says.
If you or a spouse is losing a job, look into continuing
your coverage through COBRA, says Baggett. Again, you pick up the
entire premium but you retain the benefits of the group plan. It
may also be an option if you're a dependent losing access to coverage
through divorce or because you've outgrown the plan's age limitations,
Dental discount plans are also becoming more popular.
How it works: the plan negotiates with various dentists
for set discounts on certain procedures. Joining a plan generally
costs up to $15 monthly and dental discounts may be bundled with
other benefits like eye care, says Ireland.
While the patient is responsible for paying the bill
(minus the discount) on the spot, the savings can be "pretty
significant," especially with major restorative work, says
The downside: Plans are also "largely unlicensed
by state authorities," she says.
They also don't offer the same dispute rights, says
Linda Sherry, spokeswoman for Consumer Action, a nonprofit advocacy
and education group
Ireland's advice: buy the product through a major
insurance carrier, which will be licensed. Another place to look:
the NADP Web site. Companies listed there are more likely to have
been in the industry longer and be "a little more predictable,"
she says. You can also ask companies if they are affiliated with
a national organization, says Ireland. But always verify their answer
with the organization itself.
Reputable plans will remind you they are not true
insurance coverage and will gladly spell out all of the terms and
conditions in a consumer-friendly manner before you sign up, says
Ireland. They should have a Web site, easily available contact information
and be registered corporations in their home state. Ask which dentists
are included and what the discounts are for various procedures.
Says Ireland, "Anybody who asks you to send money
before they send you material: run as fast as you can."
Dana Dratch is a freelance
writer based in Atlanta.