How to Find Dental Insurance After Retirement

by: Margie Johnson Ware, Aging and Health Specialist

Why doesn’t Medicare always cover glasses, hearing aids and dentures?

This is by far one of the most common questions Medicare counselors must field. Most older Americans will eventually need these services and it only makes sense to have these coverage options. Medicare is a government program, but it is also an insurance plan and insurance is designed to cover circumstances that cannot be anticipated. It is almost a certainty that in aging there will be the need for glasses, hearing aids and/or dentures.

In the last 50 years, many communities fluoridated water to prevent cavities. Pediatric dentistry has become more common and parents are encouraged to take their children to the dentist early and often to learn good dental hygiene. Companies have regularly offered dental insurance to employees.

The net effect of these changes is more people joining Medicare have less severe dental conditions. This also lowers the general risk for insurance plans (like Medicare). The result has been more and more companies are willing to sell individual insurance policies for dental coverage to those over age 65.

For some individuals, retiree insurance includes the option of retaining your dental coverage. For others, there are individual plans available in most areas.

The following may affect premiums and/or the ability to purchase an individual policy:

  • Joining after having been covered by an employer policy (the lesser the gap, the more beneficial)

  • Premium range, paying a higher premium to have coverage the next month

  • Committing to a regular schedule of checkups

  • Preferred doctor and willingness to change practitioners for insurance coverage

Some states offer stand-alone dental plans through the health insurance Marketplaces. Check out NCOA’s guide to accessing dental, vision and hearing benefits to learn more.

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind when seeking dental coverage:

  1. Take the Medicare Questionnaire which can connect you to free professional advice from licensed benefits advisors, including information about Medicare Advantage plans in your area that may cover dental. Contact your local State Health Assistance Insurance Program (SHIP) for access to federally-funded Medicare counseling.

  2. Depending on the time of year, there may not an enrollment period to switch to a plan that covers dental, make sure to research upcoming enrollment periods – both the date and duration.

  3. It is common to find plans that charge $30 – $60 per month for insurance and it may not be worth it. The key is to investigate what is covered and what is not, and what the liability is in the case of a major procedure.

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