Most Americans get dental and vision coverage through their employer. As a general rule, ancillary benefits are most commonly purchased by employees on a voluntary basis. Typically, when employees are offered a dental insurance product, many of them turn it down as a benefit they are willing to pay for, especially if they are part-time or a lower-wage worker.
According to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, while 67.3 percent of full-time workers and 14.9 percent of part-time workers in surveyed industries are offered some type of employer-sponsored dental coverage, either as a stand-alone policy or as part of their medical plan, only 52.7 percent of full-time workers and 8.0 percent of part-time workers participate in an employer-sponsored dental plan.
However, if you or your employees do have dental benefits, use them.
“Ever feel like you funnel money into a dental insurance plan that you'll never see again? Don’t let your dental policy become a black hole,” says Dr. Robert Schwartz, a dentist in New York. “Take advantage of all the benefits they offer—benefits you’re already paying for.”
Need a little motivation? Here are 5 very good reasons to use your benefits to the fullest:
- Yearly maximums. Dental insurance plans put a maximum on the amount of money they're willing to pay for your dental care. Maximums vary from one company or policy to the next, but typically fall around $1000. Sounds like a lot of money, doesn't it? Insurance companies consider this amount to be a good investment. Allowing you to get regular dental care, your carrier can prevent the need for more serious (and more expensive) dental procedures down the road. Why not do you both a favor and use it, ensuring your mouth is in tip-top shape when next year rolls around?
- Premiums. You're probably paying a monthly premium to keep your insurance. Even if you don't need extensive treatment, you should use that money for regular check ups and cleanings to prevent costly procedures in the future. Don't throw your money away.
- Deductibles. Insurance companies typically expect you to pay a certain amount of money for your dental care each year – usually about $500. If your smile isn't in good shape, your dentist can create a treatment plan to put you back on track. Deductibles begin anew each year, so spreading out this care over more than one year will mean you have to pay more out-of-pocket.
- Inflation. It seems everything becomes more expensive from one year to the next, and dental materials and equipment are no exception. Putting off necessary dental care could mean that you'll have to pay more down the road.
- Dental problems escalate. If your pearly whites are anything but, they're only going to get worse. That is, of course, unless you take advantage of your insurance benefits and tend to your teeth and gums. A little cavity that isn't bothering you one year may become a major headache (or toothache) the next.”
And what about your eyesight? If you wear glasses or contact lenses, or it’s been a while since you’ve had your vision checked, a visit to your optometrist is in order. According to EyeMed Vision Care, “a complete view of potential employee out-of-pocket costs is one of the most important tools for assessing the value and effectiveness of your vision benefit plan. Benefits decision-makers need all the facts—together in one place at one time—to make the right benefits decisions for employees, their dependents and your company.
Some vision benefit vendors claim to have low out-of-pocket costs, yet use only a single, hypothetical “example” transaction as support. Forty percent of eyewear consumers prefer to receive eye care services during evenings and weekends. A complete out-of-pocket assessment should consider:
- Annual premium costs
- Co-pays and allowance overages
- Lens/material type frequency
- Lens add-ons
- Contact lenses
- Additional discounts beyond the plan of coverage—like discounts on additional pairs of eyeglasses or contact lenses
If you don’t have insurance, purchase a discount dental and vision plan that can save you a lot of money, both on the fees to participate, and on the actual procedures with participating dental and vision network providers. Compare the cost of insurance to a dental discount plan. Discount plans with Careington, Aetna, Brighter.com, DentalPlans.com or other companies allow you to visit a dentist and receive significant savings at the time of service with participating dentists including specialists for oral surgery, periodontal work, orthodontia, cosmetic procedures, implants, and more.
Low membership fees each month for an individual or family can be found that provide huge savings for most procedures. You pay a discounted rate to the dentist at the time of service, and may end up with a cleaning, a set of X-rays and an exam for under $100 on your first visit. And, you have a fee schedule that tells you in advance what you pay the dentist. How about that – no surprises, and you know how much it costs before you go. That is transparent consumer-directed health care. Plus, there is no waiting and no limit on how many times you can use a discount plan.
Regardless of the type of plan, benefits, or coverage you have, the main point is to use what you have to maintain good oral health and keep your vision intact. Delaying treatment only prolongs the inevitable. Sooner or later, visiting your dentist and your eye doctor is going to be on your calendar. If you go sooner, you avoid more expensive care later. Don’t put off taking care of your smile or your vision. After all, with healthy eyes and teeth, you can see all those people who are going to be smiling back at you.