Cost of Retiree Dental Plans May Give You a Toothache

Boomers retiring without dental benefits, and Medicare recipients who don’t have a Medicare Advantage plan, may be surprised and dismayed by the latest study on the cost of dental coverage.

Man at DentistConsumers paid an average $382 annual premium for a stand-alone dental plan through a government exchange this year, and that didn’t include deductibles and copays, according to the analysis of dental plans on the federal exchange by the website HealthPocket, which compares health plans.

Deductibles averaged about $500 a year and copays averaged an annual $536 for basic services like cleanings and checkups, the study said. [Click here for its ratings of the best and worst insurers for out-of-pocket costs.]

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Dental coverage in the individual marketplace is sold in two ways: as part of a health plan or as a separate, stand-alone plan.

For older adults, access to affordable dental care has been an ongoing challenge. Medicare doesn’t cover dental care and treatment except in rare circumstances. And according to a recent report by the group Oral Health America, only about 10 percent of boomers retire with employer-provided dental benefits.

Meanwhile, the risk for dental disease increases with age. About 23 percent of people ages 65 to 74 have severe gum disease, which may put them at increased risk for heart disease or complicate other medical problems like diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

More than 70 percent of Medicare Advantage plans across the U.S. offer some form of dental benefits. Medicare supplement plans (also known as Medigap plans) typically don’t provide dental coverage, HealthPocket said.

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If you’re a Medicare beneficiary who’s considering purchasing a Medicare Advantage plan or a stand-alone dental plan, you may want to ask about plan limitations such as an annual cap on insurance payments for dental benefits. You also want to make sure your dentist accepts that insurance, HealthPocket said.

If you have trouble paying for dental care, contact the Dental Lifeline Network, a nonprofit that provides access to dental care for those who can’t afford it, to see if a program is available in your area. Also consider going to your local dental schools for treatment. They typically offer reduced-rate care.

Photo: Alvarez/istock

 

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