Dental savings plans, also called dental discount plans, are affordable alternatives to dental insurance. They offer discounted rates for dental services provided by dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons within their network. They are available for individuals or families.
With a discount dental plan, you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee (typically $100 to $200 per year) and automatically receive 10 to 60 percent savings on dental care.
There are no copays or deductibles and no annual maximum on how much you can save with your plan. Each doctor will charge a flat discounted fee for each service they perform.
Another benefit of dental discount programs is that there is no waiting period. It only takes a couple of days to sign up and gain access to their complete range of discounts. This way, you can wait until you actually need dental work done to sign up for coverage.
Dental savings plans cover preventative and restorative dental work, specialist care provided by endodontists, orthodontists, and prosthodontists, cosmetic dentistry, and prescription drugs (sometimes an additional fee is charged for prescription coverage).
Common dental treatments that discount programs cover include:
For some patients, a dental discount plan could save you more money each year.
People who don’t have access to health insurance, or whose health care plans don’t include dental coverage, will benefit from a discount dental plan. You and your family members will save money on virtually every procedure that would require you to pay full price out of pocket otherwise.
Dental discount programs can also provide supplemental coverage for people with Medicare, or people whose medical plans cap their coverage.
Many traditional dental insurance plans won’t cover more than $2,000 per year. For expensive procedures, like root canals, this can be used up quickly.
Anyone looking for savings on cosmetic dental procedures will also benefit from a discount plan. Insurance coverage typically does not apply to “elective” or “cosmetic” procedures. These are often quite expensive, and the savings you’ll receive from a discount program will far outweigh the cost of your membership fee.
Traditional insurance plans require you to pay a monthly or annual premium to maintain coverage. In return, your insurance company will cover part of a portion of your dental costs.
You’ll also need to pay co-pays, and most plans have a deductible. Many insurance plans also have an annual cap of $1,000 to $2,000 worth of coverage depending on your type of provider.
Instead of a premium, discount dental plans will charge you a monthly or annual membership fee. In return, you’ll gain access to discounted rates for dental treatments.
You’ll pay the discounted fee directly to the dentist, eliminating excessive paperwork. There are no limits on how much you can save via your dental discount plan.
While dental discount plans may resemble insurance plans in some ways, they actually work more like warehouse and brand club memberships. Joining one provides you access to members-only savings.
Both require you to obtain treatment from a qualified doctor within their network. This requires you to do a bit of research to ensure there is a reputable doctor in your area before signing up.
You’ll receive discounted care for you and all your plan members. With insurance, you may have to pay a copayment, or pay the full price upfront and wait for a reimbursement from your insurance provider. With a discount plan, you’ll pay a flat rate directly to your doctor.
Both types of plans will require you to renew your coverage annually or monthly.
Insurance plans cover significantly fewer types of treatments. They usually will not cover elective or cosmetic procedures, but discount programs will.
Most insurance providers have annual coverage caps, meaning they stop covering treatments after you spend a certain amount of money (typically $1,000 to $2,000). Discount programs have no annual limits.
The average dental insurance premium is approximately $200 to $600 per year. Discount dental program membership fees average $100 to $150 annually.
Because you pay the dentist directly, you will not have to file any claim forms or other types of paperwork with a discount dental program. There is also no waiting period for coverage and eliminates any waiting for reimbursements.
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Finocchio, Len, and Katrina Connolly. “Medical Loss Ratios For California's Dental Insurance Plans: Assessing Consumer Value And Policy Solutions” Health Affairs, vol. 37, no. 9, 2018, pp. 1517–1523., doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2018.0441.