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10 Tips for Buying Dental Insurance Online

We buy everything from music to groceries online these days, including car, home, health, dental and other types of insurance coverage. With the rollout of Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges, it’s certain more and more people without access to employer-based benefits will be purchasing health and dental insurance online.

Employer-based dental benefits are available to 45 percent of all workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—they are offered to 1 in 4 workers at the smallest establishments and 3 in 4 workers at the largest establishments. For those who do not have access to dental insurance through work, including retired seniors on Medicare, individual dental plans are an option—and often an affordable one.

Dental insurance can be quickly and easily purchased online, often for as little as $15 per month. A quote takes seconds. Enrollment can easily take fewer than five minutes. But before you buy the first plan you see, here are 10 tips that will help you find the right coverage from a carrier you can trust.

1. Determine your dentistry needs and budget—Is the plan for you, or will others in your household be covered as well? What do you see the dentist for in a typical year? How much can you afford to spend on monthly premiums and out of pocket? Answering a few simple questions will help when it comes to sifting through plan options.

A basic plan will often cover two annual preventive care visits at 100 percent; this includes exams and cleanings. Major care will cost more out of pocket, but monthly premiums will be low. For many, this is enough. However, those who historically need a lot of dental work may want coverage with more robust benefits; such plans trend toward higher monthly rates while keeping out-of-pocket costs lower. In general, the higher the plan’s annual maximum, which is the most the carrier will pay for dental benefits in a given year, the higher the premium.

2. Research your options—Some state health insurance exchanges sell adult dental insurance plans; others do not. Whether or not you have access to exchange-based dental coverage, you can research options by visiting a carrier website or through websites that provide information on plans from multiple carriers—for example, dentalinsurance.org, healthpocket.com and ehealthinsurance.com. Even if you can buy from an exchange, comparing exchange offerings with those away from the exchange is helpful.

3. Get quotes—Finding options and rates in your area takes seconds. Some sites require only a ZIP code and will provide you with a list of available plans and rate estimates, while others will ask for your desired effective date as well as applicant birth dates and gender to provide a more customized quote. Get a few quotes and select a few that seem like the best fit.

4. Compare coverage—Start looking at your dental plan options beyond monthly premium. What is the deductible? What are the copays and/or coinsurance for different levels of care? What is the annual maximum? Is the plan a PPO or indemnity plan? Is preventive care covered at 100 percent? How about diagnostic care?

5. Know the difference between discount and insurance plans—When you search for dental coverage, you may get results for dental discount plans as well as dental insurance plans. They are not the same thing. Dental discount plans involve an enrollment fee that gets you access to discounted dental services. You pay the dentist directly and receive your discount at the time of service. To obtain dental insurance, you pay a monthly premium. The insurance company pays your dentist for services. You are responsible for your deductible and any applicable copays or coinsurance. Read “Dental Discount Plans vs Dental Insurance, What’s Right for You?” to learn more.

6. Read the fine print—Once you narrow your options down to a plan or two, read the online brochure and other informational materials. Are there waiting periods for certain types of care? Does one plan offer additional benefits that another does not; for instance, some coverage comes with vision or prescription drug discount benefits and some carriers offer add-on benefits for an extra fee. What is excluded from coverage? How are claims for out-of-network and unauthorized care treated? Furthermore, some dental insurance offers graduated coverage in which coinsurance increases annually until it reaches a maximum level.

7. Check carrier ratings and customer satisfaction—Find coverage you trust. Look at the carrier’s A.M. Best rating, check with the Better Business Bureau or ask your family and friends who their dental carriers are and if they are satisfied with their coverage. Click here to learn more about selecting a reliable dental carrier.

8. Find out if there is a network—And determine whether or not your preferred dentist participates. If you do not have a dentist, browse network participants to be sure they are conveniently located and have hours that fit with your schedule. Many dental plans do not require participants to see in-network providers; however, they can save money by doing so because participating dentists provide services to network members at a discounted rate.

9. Buy before you need coverage—While new enrollees may use preventive benefits right away, other types of care may be subject to a waiting period. It is wise to have dental insurance and see your dentist regularly for routine cleanings and exams—it has been proven that those with dental insurance see the dentist more frequently, and seeing the dentist is an important part of preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Maintaining dental coverage when you need it helps ensure that should you need a filling or other unexpected dental work, you have access to benefits that reduce your out-of-pocket costs for such services.

10. Ask questions—Whether you are unsure what a term such as coinsurance means or need help determining what dental insurance coverage is best for you, it is wise to ask questions before you enroll. Call the customer service hotline associated with the plan you wish to buy. DentalInsurance.org dental insurance advisors can be reached at 866-645-6630. Working with an insurance agent or broker is always an option as well.



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