As a consumer, you have access to a wide variety of dental insurance plans, each of which has particular strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, sorting through the hundreds of available options can be a daunting task. Not only are there many dental insurance companies serving a particular area, but there are also dental discount plans that offer cheaper rates, while not having to adhere to the strict regulations required of dental insurance plans.
On a Dental PPO Plan, you are required to choose your dentist from a network of dental clinics that your particular plan contracts at a lower rate. Although you can choose a dentist outside of the network, you will typically pay more for your services. Some plans offer discounts on basic services at non-networked dentists, while others require you to pay the full rate.
Generally, on a PPO Plan, you will only need to pay the portion of the fee that’s not covered by your plan, rather than paying the full amount up front and being reimbursed later. These plans also require you to pay a deductible for all services and cap dental payments at a certain amount per year.
A prepaid plan requires that you choose one dental clinic to take care of all your dental health needs. If you need to see a dental specialist, you will likely need to get approval from your dental insurance company prior to receiving care.
Rather than a deductible, you typically pay a co-pay, or a fixed rate, for any given dental service. Some preventive and diagnostic services are usually available completely free of charge. If you don’t have any specialized dental needs, a prepaid plan is usually the most affordable dental insurance option.
A fee-for-service plan gives you the greatest choice of dentists. It follows that these plans are also more expensive than any of the other dental insurance options.
On a fee-for-service or indemnity plan, your payments are usually capped at a certain amount per year, and you are required to pay a minimum deductible. Payments vary by procedure, with preventive and diagnostic procedures typically covered at 80% and crowns and other major operations covered at a lower rate, such as 50%.
Discount Dental Plans
You may have heard of discount dental plans. These are plans that are gaining in popularity because they typically offer deep discounts compared to fee-for-service plans. It’s important to realize, however, that these are not dental insurance plans and are not subject to the same regulations.
A discount plan typically offers a low monthly or annual fee for basic preventative and diagnostic dental services. These plans tend to appeal to younger dental patients because there is no paper work involved, and there are no deductibles or yearly limits.
Each person’s dental needs are unique, so there is no dental plan that is right for everyone. The most important criteria is usually your level of comfort with a particular dentist. Once you find a dentist you like, you can usually work with them to enroll in a dental insurance or discount plan that’s right for your teeth and your wallet.