Discount dental plans are becoming more and more popular with savvy consumers. Some companies have now opted to offer their employees discount dental plans rather than dental insurance. So what's the difference and how do you know what is right for you?
A discount dental plan is simply a membership in a network of dental providers that have agreed to perform services at a lower than market rate. As with insurance companies, you will find a wide range of providers offered (at least from the reputable companies) with a variety of specialties from general dentistry, to oral surgery, to orthodontics, periodontics, and more. You will find dental providers with a range of experience, but they are not all "fresh out of school and looking for work" as many often think. These are providers that have made a business decision to accept patients at less than market rate, knowing that they will get paid without having to hassle with insurance companies. In exchange for getting paid up front, they reduce their fees for their patients.
The Pros of Discount Dental Plans (vs. Dental Insurance):
1. Usually no waiting periods (sometimes a few days to get in the system)
2. Savings on almost all procedures including braces and cosmetic dentistry.
3. No paperwork to fill out and file with the insurance company.
4. Plans are usually very reasonably priced (Family coverage is usually under $ 80 per year)
5. No pre-existing condition exclusions.
6. You do not need to be a part of a company plan to enroll. Anyone can enroll directly for a discount dental plan.
7. Excellent as a company benefit. Provides big savings for companies as there is no investment of time or administration on the part of the employer and it give the employee the satisfaction of having a dental plan to complement their medical plan.
The Cons of Discount Dental Plans
1. Payment is due at time of service. This is why the dental provider is agreeing to the discounted fee. He or she knows they are getting paid at the time of service. GOOD NEWS – You can very often apply for dental credit at your doctors office which will cover the fee.
2. Your dentist may not take the plans which means you may have to switch providers. GOOD NEWS – You can often discuss this with your dental provider and they might agree to use the payment plan of the dental plan that you have OR enroll in the program to get the benefit if being in the network.
Dental insurance is very similar to medical insurance, however focused on dental needs. Often a dental provider will give you the paperwork to file the claim with your company, asking for the payment at the time of service, but some will file for you and bill you later.
The Pros of Dental Insurance (vs. Discount Dental Plans)
1. Free check ups and cleanings. Some insurance plans will cover annual checkups and cleanings at 100%
2. Low deductibles which reduce out of pocket expenses.
The Cons of Dental Insurance
1. Not available to everyone. You must be a part of a company that offers a dental plan.
2. May have to file paperwork to get your claim paid.
3. You often pay more and still do not get better coverage for specialists. I had a root canal once and even with insurance had to pay $ 600 out of pocket.
4. There is often a 30-day waiting period.
5. Pre-existing conditions may not be covered.
So which should you have? If you are with a company that offers dental insurance, by all means take it. If you are like the 75 million Americans that are uninsured or under insured, it makes sense to at least protect yourself with a
dental plan discount given the cost. If you are preparing to change jobs, you might want to add a discount dental plan to your financial plan so that you do not have any surprises. It is worth an extra $ 80 per year to have that piece of mind.