Why Do Seniors Need Dental Insurance?
As people get older, it is more important than ever to maintain healthy habits with regular medical checkups.
While many seniors do schedule doctor appointments, not as many make consistent visits to the dentist. This approach may save money up front, but the cost over time is rarely worthwhile. Seniors should never neglect their oral hygiene in order to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.
You Can’t Afford to Skip Dental Services
Seniors often live on a fixed income. Because of this, many seniors have to be conscious of the budget, so many luxuries go by the wayside. Most seniors are surprised to discover that there is no guaranteed dental insurance in Medicare. Few seniors have budgeted the necessary funds to pay for private coverage. Therefore, these uninsured seniors simply skip dental checkups.
According to Pew, up to 40 percent of seniors do not visit the dentist at least once a year. The percentages are even worse when you look at specific senior populations. For lower-income seniors, only a third made a yearly visit.
The reasons for skipping the dentist are financial. However, the complications are physical. Based on data from AARP, it is clear that seniors forgo dental coverage at the exact time that it matters most. As the body ages, the toll on the teeth and gums becomes increasingly apparent. This means that seniors are prone to cavities, enamel loss, gum disease, and tooth decay.
The health complications are numerous based on the evidence from AARP. Not only do many seniors live in pain because of their teeth, but oral hygiene starts to impact other parts of your life. Your oral hygiene can limit your ability to speak. It can start to limit your diet as well. Moreover, bad oral hygiene is linked to other health problems such as heart attack and stroke.
These risks are very real. Seniors need to be aware that skipping the dentist may save some money, but the physical toll is hardly worthwhile. That is why you can never afford to skimp on dental services.
Medicare Doesn’t Cover Dental
The main reason that dental costs are so unexpected for seniors can be traced to the inherent gaps in Medicare. As per its official purpose, Medicare is a safety net to ensure that people over the age of 65 have access to the health insurance they need. It is funded by social security premiums; which individuals pay into for most of their adult lives. Therefore, seniors feel like it is reasonable to expect affordable, comprehensive health insurance upon retirement.
Unfortunately, this coverage does not live up to expectations for seniors. As is clearly spelled out on their website, Medicare is not designed to cover the majority of your dental care. Coverage does not include standard dental cleaning, routine checkups, procedures, or supplies. This means that most seniors who rely on Medicare have no coverage for fillings, dentures, extractions, and other typical dental care.
There are a few exceptions. Medicare Part A is Hospital Insurance. Under Medicare Part A, seniors may have dental procedures covered while they are in the hospital. Moreover, this coverage may also include emergency dental procedures in some circumstances.
Despite these exceptions, it is still painfully obvious that most seniors do not have a solid plan for ongoing dental care in their retirement years.
Dental Insurance is Cheaper Than You Think
Most seniors think that cutting on dental insurance premiums will help them manage their budget in retirement. However, the cost-benefit analysis does not hold true.
According to some estimates, paying for additional dental coverage will provide a cost savings of 70 to 80 percent. This is largely due to the fact that seniors have escalating dental problems as they age and the out of pocket costs to fix such problems quickly outweighs the cost of a monthly premium.
The key is to find the right coverage for your needs.
The first option for dental coverage starts with Medicare. While all seniors are eligible for Part A, it is possible to pay more for additional coverage upgrades. When you pay for a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is sometimes called Part C, you are paying for more comprehensive coverage. Medicare Advantage Plans are offered by private companies that are approved to work with Medicare. Although there are some restrictions, this coverage typically includes dental insurance.
An alternative to this is Medigap. By definition, Medigap is intended to cover the gaps left by standard Medicare. Medigap coverage is purchased from a private insurance company in addition to your Medicare coverage. If you are enrolled in Medicare Advantage, you will not be eligible for a Medigap plan.
The last option is to look into standard dental insurance. These plans are offered by major insurance companies like Humana, Delta, or UnitedHealthCare. Compare and contrast the plans to see which one offers the best coverage for your needs. Some companies have set percentages for coverage depending on the procedure. Others may have yearly limits on total costs that may not cover larger procedures. Make sure you know what you are getting when you sign up. On average, an individual dental insurance plan costs $350 per year, or approximately $29 per month.
Overall, seniors must be prepared to contend with dental costs in retirement. Although Medicare does not provide dental coverage, there are many affordable alternatives to consider. Purchasing the right plan can protect your teeth, your budget and your happiness for years to come.
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