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Did you/will you buy dental coverage in retirement?
Old 07-01-2008, 09:24 PM   #1
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Did you/will you buy dental coverage in retirement?

I've often wondered whether I will buy a dental coverage plan. Right now, I think not. Thought I'd ask others. Reading "Nords" thread
"...SS only..." got me thinking about it again. Right now my wife and I have an oral exam and cleaning once per year. Been doing this for decades. Only amounts to $84 per visit and that includes preventitive
X-rays. Only time I question dental coverage is when I think of the possibility of loosing teeth as we get older. Current prices for a dental implant and crown is $4000-$5000 per tooth around here.

So, What are you doing or what do you plan to do about this? Thanks.
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Old 07-01-2008, 09:49 PM   #2
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I am covered by Blue Cross in WA, they have a dental insurance plan that I can access. Last year the Feds offered access to dental insurance so I have taken a long look at the +/- of dental insurance. The first concern is whether or not you can actually USE the providers. I noticed that the Fed plans had few providers that were accepting patients. We have been on the BC dental plan for a while and were able to find an excellent dentist.. a 'retired' Navy guy (for some reason Navy dentists who were or who serve the sub service are fantastic).

The other question is whether or not the insurance is cost effective. What I like is that there is a negotiated schedule for services, that alone has high value. Assuming that a dentist not in the program charges the schedule rate the cost of insurance is a push with deductibles and all that.

The other issue is family attitude about dental services. My husband is CHEAP and would not get the cleanings he should without the fact that the insurance pays a hunk of the expense. Factoring in the value of preventative services, the insurance has value.

Kaiser has dental in Portland. I subscribed when they first offered it and kept it until we moved out of the service area. Worth every penny when you have two kids and wisdom teeth removal is a family act of passage !!!
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Old 07-01-2008, 09:50 PM   #3
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The cost for dental insurance is more than it pays.
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Old 07-01-2008, 10:56 PM   #4
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RIght. Insurance should only be used to protect you from an expenditure that would ruin you financially. Use it for anything else, and you'll usually lose out. Otherwise the insurance company wouldn't offer it.
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:33 PM   #5
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Head to Mexico (or many other foreign destinations) and have the work done at a fraction of the cost, while enjoying a nice holiday.

I just had my old dental bridge replaced last month for 75% less than in the States and the work was excellent.
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:38 PM   #6
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My MIL is going on Medicare next month and we have been looking for a good dental insurance for her. She won't be covered by Medicare or by her supplemental insurance for dental work (she'll get a small discount from her Medicare part D plan). We found one insurance plan proposed by Delta and sponsored by AARP costing $37-$47 monthly depending on the options. Originally she thought that she did not need it because cleanings and X-rays are pretty cheap and she can pay for those out of pocket. But when she started asking her dentist about the cost of crowns and other advanced dental work for uninsured patients, she decided that it was worth it.
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Old 07-02-2008, 12:33 AM   #7
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We have decided to get the optional dental-vision-audio insurance plan offered through the State of Alaska retirement system. It costs $108 per month to cover both of us. I sat down and figured out ahead of time how much teeth-cleanings, eye-exams and new glasses and frames every two years for each of us would cost--and compared that to the cost of insurance premiums + copays for the same procedures. As T-Al says, the insurance was a few dollars more expensive. But...I have a zillion ancient fillings in my teeth, and have needed a lot of crowns and even a root canal as my teeth get older and crack. So, when you add that in, along with DH's hearing loss (and future "audio benefit" needs), the insurance looks like it will be a good idea. I think that dental insurance is not cost effective for most. But if you have lots of expensive dental work looming in your future it might pay off for you.
edit: when calculating how much self-paying for dental care will cost, you have to ask the dentist to give you the "uninsured patient" cost. Even my long term dentist won't give me a break if I were to lose my dental insurance--he'd make me pay those hugely inflated prices you see on the insurance statements.
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Old 07-02-2008, 12:54 AM   #8
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Sometimes credit unions will have dental plans at a reasonable cost. Often, however, dentists in the big-name established plans are not members of the credit union plans so you may have to change dentists.
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Old 07-02-2008, 01:26 AM   #9
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I am surprised at the number of people who think that dental insurance is not worth it. But I was also surprised at the number of my MIL's friends who have only Medicare part A and B, no Medicare supplemental insurance, no Medicare part D, no dental or vision insurance.
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Old 07-02-2008, 01:44 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
I am surprised at the number of people who think that dental insurance is not worth it.
When I was working I had dental insurance. I carried it because of possible orthodontist problems with the kids and DW seemed to have a few problems. It did have a cost, ~600 year.

I am also a bit paranoid of dentists. As ER approached, I thought I should get fixed up on the insurance company's dime. Went to the dentist for the 1st time in 25 years. The insurance company got out for $500. DW spent about $8K.

After ER, dental coverage was no longer an option. Had a filling fall out. Went on my own dime, 10 years since last visit, he found a couple of little things. Got out for < $1K.

YMMV, but everyone's problems are different and by the time you hit 50, you should have a good idea if you will be a large consumer of dental services. Judge accordingly.
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Old 07-02-2008, 02:51 AM   #11
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I have had Delta Dental insurance for years - it costs about $46 /month - or over $500/year. They pay out a yearly cap of $1200, but throw in 2 free cleanings a year and one free complete set of X-rays every 2 years. Some years I use very little - but the last couple of years have had 2 or 3 crowns each year so I've used up the whole $1200.

My dentist charges $900 for a crown - of which Delta pays less than half and I pay the rest out of pocket so it's probably a tossup whether it's worth it. I think I I keep it because I have a lot of confidence in my dentist & he has the latest equipment & does a great job & so far I'm a bit ahead. I have friends who pay $9 or so a month and have to keep changing dentists. Their dentists seem to pull out of the low cost groups as soon as they gain experience.
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:27 AM   #12
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46 dollars a month for 30 years at 8% is over 68,000 dollars.
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Old 07-02-2008, 08:40 AM   #13
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Most dental plans probably cost $500+ a year and only cover up to $1200 per year.

If you can't self-insure a potential $700 a year in excess dental costs, you probably can't afford early retirement. If you have some unusual condition whereby you pretty much know you'll use nearly the full benefit every year, it would make some sense, but not otherwise.
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:05 AM   #14
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I cloned TexArkandy's post from the "only SS" thread because it is an important
and relevant comment. I don't know about dental costs but I know that medical
cost (doctor, lab tests) "rack rates" can be much higher (factor of 2 or more) than
negotiated rates if you are in a plan.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Notmuchlonger
.... Dental coverage is probably a waste too. .........

Quote:
originally posted by TexArkandy
I've learned my lesson about paying extra for a dental plan - or more properly termed, a "dental discount plan" - sure the plan doesn't really pay off that much, but the upside is what you pay is a negotiated discount rate - otherwise you get charged "rack rates" without a plan.

Best deal I've been able to negotiate on my own with a dentist is 5% off for cash on the barrel-head.
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:08 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by kaneohe View Post
I cloned TexArkandy's post from the "only SS" thread because it is an important
and relevant comment. I don't know about dental costs but I know that medical
cost (doctor, lab tests) "rack rates" can be much higher (factor of 2 or more) than
negotiated rates if you are in a plan.
This is VERY true with health insurance, and only slightly true (usually) for dental.

Negotiated rates for in-network dentists may be 10-20% lower, but usually no more than that. Contrast that with an MRI where the hospital may bill an individual $2000 but insurance pays $300.
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"Hey, for every ten dollars, that's another hour that I have to be in the work place. That's an hour of my life. And my life is a very finite thing. I have only 'x' number of hours left before I'm dead. So how do I want to use these hours of my life? Do I want to use them just spending it on more crap and more stuff, or do I want to start getting a handle on it and using my life more intelligently?" -- Joe Dominguez (1938 - 1997)

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Old 07-02-2008, 09:11 AM   #16
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Delta was one of the plans I considered, my dentist wouldn't accept the plan because of their reimbursement rate.

One of the problems for dental insurers is adverse selection. Patients with problems buy it, others do not. When the coverage is included in a group policy adverse selection is not an issue so it is cheaper for individuals.
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Old 07-02-2008, 09:50 AM   #17
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Every time I look into dental insurance I find that the cost never justifies the benefit.
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Old 07-02-2008, 10:05 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by ziggy29 View Post
Most dental plans probably cost $500+ a year and only cover up to $1200 per year.

If you can't self-insure a potential $700 a year in excess dental costs, you probably can't afford early retirement. If you have some unusual condition whereby you pretty much know you'll use nearly the full benefit every year, it would make some sense, but not otherwise.
Thanks so much Ziggy! Your post prompted me to check again the Delta plan's summary of benefits and guess what I didn't realize that it had a maximum benefit of only $1200 per calendar year! I thought it was much, much higher than that! I must have skimmed right over that little "detail" the first time I read it. Then you are right, it's definitely not worth it. Thanks again!
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Old 07-02-2008, 10:33 AM   #19
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Like all insurance, it just depends on the deal you can get and whether you have some subsidization of the premiums by your former employer.

In our case, the annual premium for DW and I = $276. The plan covers two checkups/cleanings per year at zero co-pay, 100% coverage. That's $165 X 4 = $660 per year. We value dental health and do faithfully go in for our semi-annual checkups, so we more than cover the costs of our premiums right there.

Our plan allows us to use any dentist and we submit receipts ourselves. We prefer this. Although it takes a few minutes and a few stamps to get it done, they've always paid promptly (within a couple of weeks) and we pick our own dentist or specialist with no concern as to whether they're part of "the plan" or not. The plan pays "reasonable and customary" and, so far, never a problem with that.

The bad news....... Annual max is only $2k per person, so this isn't really insurance against a staggering expense....... but it does encourage us to have regular preventative care and routine work. And, sadly, it ends when we're 65. I doubt we'll find anything we want to buy to replace it when that time comes.
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:41 AM   #20
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This was a no-brainer decision for us. DW's school system offered teachers Aetna family dental coverage that essentially covered 100% of all dental costs. While she was working it cost $33 per month. After she retired it went down to only $17 per month. A gold crown, which would have cost us $900 without the insurance, was covered completely, recouping all of the premiums we paid. Since then, we have each had another crown.

Unfortunately, this dental coverage was the only worthwhile aspect of the state retirement system for teachers. DW, after full career as a special ed teacher, draws a total annual pension of only $7500.
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