It doesn’t have to be a hassle to buy dental insurance online. In fact, a reputable online resource or broker will be able to provide you with all the tools you need to pick just the right plan for you. You just have to know what to look for.
These tools can help you compare a variety of plans, and that’s key when it comes to picking out dental insurance online, says Suzanne Ducote, director of individual business development at Starmount Insurance. “Always compare features and compare plans side by side,” she says.
Here are some of her top tips to help you buy dental insurance online.
Buy Dental Insurance Online the Right Way: Research Coverage
It’s important to understand how dental insurance premiums are set. In most cases, insurance companies use what are known as “100-80-50” cost-share systems. This means that the carrier covers 100 percent of the cost of treatments at a certain level—usually preventive work such as regular teeth cleanings, screenings and X-rays. Then the carrier agrees to cover 80 percent of the costs at the next level—fillings, for example—and 50 percent of costs at the highest level, which most often includes major services such as root canals, implants, bridges and dentures.
“It’s important to note that “discount plans” are not insurance. Instead, that’s a term that describes a group of dentists who agree to provide discounted services for an annual membership. Make sure to verify that you’re buying a fully insured plan as opposed to a discount plan.”
But in many cases the lowest-cost plan isn’t the worst and the highest-cost plan isn’t the best, Ducote says. As you research the cost, keep in mind the level of services you expect you’ll need when you buy dental insurance online; prices will be determined by the services offered. Use online tools and calculators to find the best fit for you.
Dig Into the Details
As you research and prepare to buy dental insurance online, you’ll need to have a good understanding of some common dental insurance terms. Ducote notes that “co-insurance” is a big one. It refers to the amount that the carrier will pay for the benefit named, as in the 100-80-50 cost-share example. A premium is the amount you pay for a policy, and a deductible is the amount you must pay before the insurance coverage kicks in. You should also know the term “waiting period,” as it applies to dental insurance policies, which is the period of time you must be enrolled in a dental plan before becoming eligible for a specific category of benefits. Another key term is “annual maximum,” which is the maximum amount that a plan will pay for dental care expenses you incur during a specified period, typically a calendar year or benefit year.
Ducote says it’s important to note that “discount plans” are not insurance. Instead, that’s a term that describes a group of dentists who agree to provide discounted services for an annual membership fee. Make sure to verify that you’re buying a fully insured plan as opposed to a discount plan. If you require more than just the bare minimum of coverage, costs can add up quickly, compared with traditional insurance plans. A fully insured plan helps cover some, if not all, of the cost of different procedures, in addition to providing discounts. And insurance companies process and review your claims for you to ensure they are accurate. Discount plans don’t do that—there is no “back-end” administration to support you from a financial point of view.
“Some discount plans will present almost like insurance, so make sure it’s a fully insured plan,” Ducote says.
Know the Network
“Network” refers to the group of dentists an insurance carrier works with. When you visit a dentist in the network, the costs often are lower. Ducote says most dental insurance carriers provide online services that include a dentist locator, encouraging policyholders to use it to determine if their dentist is in-network and find a variety of dental specialists who are also in-network. If there are not a wide variety of in-network choices near you, she recommends you definitely understand the out-of-network benefits for any plan you consider.
“If you end up picking a plan that doesn’t have your dentist in network and you have to go out of network, you could pay a higher cost,” Ducote says. These networks can change, so it doesn’t hurt to check with your preferred provider about whether they’re in the network you’re researching online. It’s also worth noting that some dental insurance carriers provide a means for you to request the network to recruit your dentist, or you could consider changing to a dentist who is in-network.
*Hyperlinks to third-party websites are offered for informational purposes only. Starmount in no way controls, guarantees, endorses, sponsors or promotes these websites or their content.
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