How to Get Affordable Dental Coverage: Government-Funded Options and More
Almost half of Americans don’t have any form of dental insurance, and if you’re uninsured, you’re a lot less likely to get the preventive care you need.
This lack of preventive care affects the whole family. 41% of parents without dental coverage delay care for their children because of cost. Medical bills have long been a financial hardship, and often a cause for bankruptcy.
So, it’s understandable why many can’t find room in their budget for dental insurance. After all, dental problems seem less serious than other health problems.
The problem is, preventive care is essential to oral health. Without it, you’re more likely to suffer from small problems that can lead to bigger issues. People with gingivitis and periodontal disease, for instance, are three times more likely to suffer a stroke than those without.
Governmental dental options are an affordable way for you and your family to receive affordable dental coverage. Here are government assistance programs that can help you pay for dental care, and additional options if you don’t qualify.
Income-Based Dental Coverage Through the Health Insurance Marketplace
Income-based coverage through the government’s health insurance Marketplace may allow you to find a discounted health and dental insurance plan for you and your family. To qualify, your income must fall within a range which is also dependent on location, your marital status, and other factors.
You can find an income-based health and dental plan on a state or federal Health Insurance Marketplace.
There are two types of coverage you can get:
- A health insurance plan that helps you save on your monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses based on your household size and income
- Free or low-cost coverage for you and your family through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Continue Your Previous Benefits With COBRA
If you’re between jobs or have recently left a job and are not actively pursuing a new one, you may qualify for COBRA continuation coverage.
With COBRA, you still receive coverage from your most-recent employer for 18–36 months while you look for a new position.
You can qualify for COBRA coverage if:
- You were laid off from your job.
- You quit your job.
- You were fired but not for gross misconduct.
- Your employment was terminated for any other reason.
- You went from full-time to part-time and don’t qualify for health insurance benefits through your new employer.
Under COBRA, you’ll pay group rates for your insurance plan without your employer’s contribution, which means a COBRA plan may be expensive.
You need to sign up for a COBRA health insurance plan within 60 days of losing your employer insurance plan to receive a plan. If you miss this 60-day window, you must wait for the next annual open enrollment period to apply for a COBRA plan. You can switch to private insurance from your COBRA plan at any time.
Medicaid, the largest source of health coverage in the United States, is a state- and federal-funded health insurance program that covers children, pregnant women, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and low-income persons.
Medicaid covers mandatory eligibility groups and financially eligible groups.
Each state can determine which dental benefits are provided to adult Medicaid enrollees. While most states provide emergency dental services for adults, less than 25 states currently provide full dental coverage.
Dental Coverage for Children: Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
If your family qualifies for Medicaid, some states participate in the expansion program CHIP, where dental coverage is a requirement for children under 21.
This dental coverage must prevent disease and promote oral health, restore oral structures, and treat emergencies.
Medicare Coverage When You’re 65 Years and Older
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, as well as some younger people with disabilities and individuals with end-stage renal disease.
Medicare doesn’t cover most dental care or procedures like cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures or other dental devices.
However, Medicare Part A will pay for certain dental services you receive when you’re in a hospital. Part A can pay for emergency or complicated dental procedures, even though preventive dental care isn’t covered.
Since preventive dental coverage is not available under Medicare, you are generally responsible for the full cost of dental care unless you have a private dental insurance plan.
Charities and Non-Profit Organizations
Charities and non-profit organizations such as the United Way may be able to help you find free or reduced-cost dental services in your area if you don’t qualify for a governmental assistance program. Local United Way chapters can be found on the United Way website.
Coverage for All and the Health Center Program hosted by the Bureau of Primary Care are both valuable resources dedicated to helping families find affordable primary and preventive health and dental care.
Dental Schools for Budget-Friendly Dental Care
Dental schools aren’t governmental assistance programs, but they are a budget-friendly way to receive quality and affordable health care if you don’t qualify for other options.
Many dental schools have clinics that provide dental students with valuable experience treating patients — and you get dental care at a low cost. Students are supervised by licensed and experienced dentists, and some schools even include a post-graduate or faculty clinic.
Dental hygiene schools may also offer supervised and affordable preventive dental care as part of their training programs for dental hygienists.
Participate in Clinical Trials
Though clinical trials are not government assistance programs, they do lessen the financial burden of dental care if you don’t qualify for a government program.
The National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) sometimes seeks volunteers with specific dental, oral and craniofacial conditions to participate in research studies, also known as clinical trials.
Researchers may provide study participants with limited free or low-cost dental treatment for the condition they’re studying. Find out if there are any NIDCR clinical trials that you might fit into.
For a complete list of all federally funded clinical trials, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
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