As seniors find out in retirement — much to the surprise of many — traditional Medicare does not cover dental care. When it comes to keeping your choppers chipper, you are on your own.
That may change at some point. Recently, Congress has been discussing the notion of adding dental coverage, among other benefits, to Medicare. But we remain a long way from seeing such plans become reality.
So, how have those on Medicare been paying for their dental care? A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data uncovered the three most common ways seniors accessed such care as of 2019.
1. Medicare Advantage plans
There are two main types of Medicare health insurance: Original Medicare (also known as traditional Medicare), which is managed by the federal government, and Medicare Advantage plans purchased from private insurers.
Some Medicare Advantage plans cover services that are not covered by Original Medicare, including hearing, vision and dental care.
Medicare Advantage plans are becoming more popular with seniors, Kaiser notes. Because of that reality, a larger share of Medicare beneficiaries — 29% — got dental coverage through their Medicare Advantage plan in 2019.
2. Private dental plans
A sizable share of those on Medicare — 16% — get their coverage through dental plans from private insurers.
In some cases, this coverage is the result of employer-sponsored retiree plans that cover dental care as a post-work perk. In other situations, retirees go out and buy an individual plan directly from an insurer.
Some seniors — 11% — get their dental coverage through Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income folks. However, this is not an option for all retirees. To qualify for Medicaid coverage, you generally must meet income requirements.
How seniors can save on dental care
It is worth noting that nearly half of Medicare recipients — 47%, or 24 million people — had no dental coverage whatsoever as of 2019, the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found. These retirees pay out of pocket for all dental services.
Regardless of whether you have dental coverage, it is important to see your dentist regularly. Don’t wait for Congress to add dental coverage to Medicare — by the time that happens, you might not have any teeth left!
Fortunately, there are ways to save right now. For example, it can help to flash a little green after the dentist looks at your pearly whites. As we have reported:
“Some dentists will discount the cost of their services by a specific amount — 10% is common — if you pay your bill in cash at the time of the visit. Ask your dentist’s receptionist or bookkeeper to find out if the discount is available.”
For more, read “10 Ways Seniors Can Save on Dental Care.”