Full Coverage Dental Insurance
Few people realize how expensive even basic and routine dental procedures can be until they go without insurance. The market for dental insurance is growing rapidly, and a slew of insurance companies now offer full coverage dental insurance meant to smooth out expenditures into one simple, easy to digest, monthly premium.
Why Full Coverage?
The best part about full coverage insurance of any type is that it is essentially prepaid medical care. That is, when you make your monthly premium payment each month, you have the financial security knowing that your premium will be the only amount that you ever have to pay for dental costs. All costs at the dentist are then paid for exclusively by your insurance company.
This benefit is even greater with employer sponsored plans, since your employer is likely to subsidize at least a portion of your monthly premium. Plus, since employer sponsored plans are paid with pre-tax dollars, whatever amount you pay in premiums means you pay less with post-tax dollars. For high income earners, this is a very important part of the decision making process. Lower income earners who have smaller tax burdens do not get the same proportional benefit.
The Downsides to Full Coverage
There are several downsides to full coverage dental insurance, primarily the steep monthly premiums. An annual deductible will help reduce your monthly premium, but as noted before, you'll pay your deductible with post-tax, not pre-tax, earnings.
Do not assume, however, that “full coverage” in the name of the policy means real full coverage. As these plans become more popular, insurance companies are creating new tiers of “full coverage” plans. The three common tiers are basic coverage, minor care, and major care insurance.
Basic full coverage plans are usually very minimal policies designed to cover fully the most basic dental care including checkups, and cleanings with zero out of pocket expense. The idea is that by making preventative care free, you're less likely to incur larger expenses from defensive dental work.
Minor care full coverage plans cover all the expenses of basic care insurance plus offer coverage on a limited number of filings or dental work. A minor policy is usually set up with an annual benefit cap of $500. So, should you need care beyond regular cleanings and checkups, your insurance will cover $500 of the expense, and all expenses beyond $500 will be yours to pay.
With proper planning, you'll be able to cover virtually every dental need with a minor coverage plan. Keep in mind, though, that just one pair of braces or oral surgery easily extends in cost well above your annual benefit cap.
Major Care Coverage
Major care coverage covers everything from checkups and cleanings to filings and basic dental work all the way to root canals, or oral surgery. Maintaining full coverage major dental care insurance can be extraordinarily expensive, since the insurance company assumes a great amount of risk in insuring against what amounts to any and all dental work. Some insurance companies help mitigate this risk by requiring deductibles on major work, while paying entirely for small dental needs.
As with any insurance, dental insurance should be purchased after extensive thought to your own medical needs. If you have historically poor teeth, it may be best to pay more for major care coverage. If you have strong, healthy teeth, and have passed the age for major work like wisdom teeth removal, a simple basic plan may best fit your needs.
If you have the opportunity to purchase dental insurance through an employer, do so. It is rare to find less expensive rates than a group plan offered through an employer. If you are shopping independently, try first to work with your current health insurance company to maximize any savings for packaging two different types of insurance. Many health insurance companies will extend basic dental insurance with a single phone call and the addition of a simple rider to your current health insurance policy.