With the changes in the retiree dental plans, folks are feeling overwhelmed by the options. As my friend Amy Bushatz explained it, “instead of being served a plate of food, it’s like going to a buffet!” While it is a lot to process, it’s important to make a decision and take action.
So, how DO you choose which plan is likely right for you?
Do You Care What Dentist You Use?
If you have a dentist and you want to stay with them, then the first thing to do is ask your dentist which plans they accept. Give them a call, or print out the options and stop by the office. They’ll be glad to help you! You can also go to the website of the plan you are considering, and check their “find a dentist” database. Because I’m paranoid, I like to verify the dentist’s participation in both directions, both through the dentist and through the insurance carrier.
Will You Need Immediate Coverage For Something That Sometimes Has A Waiting Period?
Some plans may have a waiting period for certain services, particularly the expensive services like orthodontics. If you anticipate needing big work soon, be sure to pick a plan that doesn’t have a waiting period.
What’s Your Capacity For Unplanned Expenses?
Everyone budgets differently, and everyone has a different comfort level with surprise expenses. Would you rather pay more in premiums each month, but have lower costs expenses when you need care? Or are you willing to pay more when you need care in order to save on premiums each month? If you choose a less-expensive, lower-coverage plan, will a dental emergency also be a financial emergency, or do you have the money set aside for these types of expenses?
At the far end of the spectrum, my friend Doug self-insures, using the money he would use on premiums to pay for his dental care. This leads us into the next question:
What Are Your Dental Needs? How’s Your Oral Health?
Dental needs vary a lot from person to person. Some folks never have a cavity and require almost no care. I have a certain tooth that chips a lot due to the structure of my bite, and it requires care about once a year. Anyone with kids will probably want some sort of coverage, and most of us parents will want orthodontic coverage. Younger retirees with great dental hygiene may not need insurance at all, older folks with problematic mouths may need the most comprehensive coverage available.
Don’t Be Overwhelmed!
While the process of choosing a dental plan is new for military families, it’s not new to the rest of the country. Most of your civilian friends and family go through this process every year. My sister actually keeps a spreadsheet of all their medical expenses all year, and each year at open season time she plugs their actual medical spending into the different plans available to figure out which plan is right for their family for that year. I am confident that you can sort through your options and find a plan that meets your health care needs and your budget!
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