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Should You Buy Dental and Vision Insurance?

Posted By Miranda Marquit On 02/21/2013 @ 12:10 pm In Personal Finance | 15 Comments

Right now, I’m going through the process of deciding whether or not I want to buy dental insurance. I decided long ago that vision insurance really isn’t worth it for my family, but with my son getting older — and likely to need braces in the next two or three years — I’m wondering if dental insurance might be worth the cost.

Until this point, we have paid out of pocket for most of our dental and vision costs. My son and I have very good teeth, and regular cleanings and check-ups are all we need. While my husband has been less fortunate in his teeth, we have still been able to afford his dental care with the help of a Health Savings Account [3]. But what happens if my son needs thousands of dollars of orthodontic care?

Vision Insurance

Unless you end up with really good coverage through your employer, it probably isn’t worth it to get vision insurance. In many cases, many vision “insurance” plans are actually discount programs [4]. That can be an issue later on, since it means that you are paying for access to discounts, so you pay a monthly fee, and then you still might need to pay more out of pocket than you expected.

We’ve found that vision insurance for individuals isn’t really worth it. We pay for our eye exams and our glasses and contacts out of pocket, with help from the HSA. Other items, like serious eye health issues, are usually covered under your health insurance. When you have an eye infection, it’s your health insurance that covers the cost, not your vision insurance. Consider the coverage, and the cost, and determine whether or not vision insurance makes sense for you.

Dental Insurance

Often, employers offer dental insurance separate from regular health plans. You can get access through HMOs, PPO, and indemnity plans. The HMO option is likely to be the most restrictive, in terms of which dentists you can see. Basic care is usually covered completely, but you might have to start paying more out of pocket for complicated procedures.

You can use a PPO to see a wider variety of dentists, but you will have to pay a higher co-pay if you choose a dentist that isn’t “in network.” Usually, you pay a co-pay for almost all services, with this plan operating much like a health insurance plan that you might be used for. Indemnity plans offer even more freedom, but they also cost more for insurance, and you might have higher co-pays. These are often provided only through employers.

One of the things to watch out for with dental insurance is the fact that most plans don’t cover orthodontics as a matter of course. You will need to purchase an orthodontics rider, paying for additional coverage, in most cases. You might also have a required amount of time that you need to be insured in order to have your dental and/or orthodontic work covered. You might need to pay premiums for six months to a year before being able to start using your insurance for expensive procedures.

Carefully consider your situation, and run the numbers. It’s increasingly looking like dental insurance, with the additional orthodontics coverage, might be a good option for my family as my son gets closer to needing braces, and in the event that my husband’s teeth deteriorate further.

(Photo: Irina Patrascu [5])


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[3] Health Savings Account: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/finances-55-hsa.html

[4] discount programs: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/medical-discount-plan-health-insurance.html

[5] Irina Patrascu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/angel_ina/2984854472/

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