Q: We are a couple who retired two years ago. We are looking to continue our dental coverage. Our Cobra is running out in a month. We've been accustomed to having dental insurance for forty years. It was quite a shock when we realized our dental insurance is ending. What we need covered is an exam and cleanings twice a year, an occasional filling, crown or root canal. We do not know the costs of these services without coverage as we practically never had to pay the full price. We also would like to keep our dentist that we've been going to for a long time. We've noticed a lot of plans out there have long waiting periods and we just do not want to wait a year or two before we can use our benefits.
P. F. from Novato, California
A: Dear P. F., I can understand your frustration. Just when you retire, and when your dental needs may become the greatest, you run out of company-sponsored coverage. I've seen that happen over and over again.
Medicare for the most part does not touch dental and so you are left out there on your own. Another shock for sure is that you've been accustomed to coverage, and you hardly even seen any expense related to that as it was taken out of your paycheck before you even saw the money. Now, the dental expense will be out of your own pocket.
I would ask your dentist what dental plans his/her office accepts first. Dental offices, however are notorious for recommending names that make for great group plans such as the one you had before retirement. However, when it comes to individual plans, the same insurance company that offers a great group plan could offer a lousy individual plan. Beware.
Look for the small print when purchasing individual insurance. Look for waiting periods. You sound like you are not comfortable waiting and paying premiums for a year or two before the coverage even kicks in! Look for annual maximums. When the amount of services is exhausted for the year, you will start paying 100% out of pocket even though you are paying for insurance. Also, compare the deductibles - you can count them simply as an addition to the annual cost of the plan.
If the restrictions of conventional individual insurances are overly restrictive, you may consider simply not paying insurance and creating a dental savings account, and self insure your costs, or get a discount dental plan that will have no waiting periods, no limits on services, and no deductibles. It just all depends on how do you want to manage your finances.
Dental Discount Plans
Individual Dental Insurance Plans (beware long waiting periods and annual maximums)