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Friday, July 25, 2014

Why Dental Plans Can Be More Tempting than a Cinnabon

That might seem like a bit of an overstatement, because let’s be honest – it’s pretty hard to beat a Cinnabon. However, changes in healthcare, shifts in the marketplace, and dental insurance alternatives have all altered the landscape for consumers like you. You might not know it yet, but dentists are working harder than ever to work on your teeth.

Changes in Healthcare

Americans are currently experiencing the largest shift in healthcare in a generation (some might even say in history). Change is always scary regardless of the political landscape and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, has created ripple effects within the dental plan market.

Dental coverage is now required for children (but not adults), and all individual and small-group market plans must be certified as qualified health plans. In fact, by 2018 it’s estimated more than 8.5 million children could obtain dental coverage. This growth is also important since adolescent tooth decay can lead to ear and sinus infections, or even more serious health concerns like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

This new, obtained dental coverage could be split up between Medicaid, health insurance exchanges, and employer-sponsored insurance programs. Or in other words, this means competition for dental plans, and competition is always beneficial to consumers.

A certain amount of misinformation always seems to cloak itself within any major change. It’s still too early to know how the ACA will affect the dental industry as a whole. However, one thing is clear, consumers who educate themselves about these same changes should have a distinct advantage.

Shifts in the Marketplace

In addition to the political shift in healthcare, there’s another growing trend within the dental industry. Dentists are joining discounted-fee dental plans with greater frequency. The incentive for dentists is simple – more patients translates into a more robust practice.

Economic conditions affect dentist practices just like every other business. Given the economic climate of the last several years, you can understand why dental plans, dentists, and other concerned parties are always looking to add patients.

Discount plans, also known as reduced-fee-for-service plans, are not insurance. Instead these plans offer dental services at a discount from participating dentists. These plans charge a monthly or annual charge and patients can only visit participating dentists. The plus side for consumers, generally there’s no paperwork, annual limits, or deductibles.

Dental Alternatives

One complication in finding the best deal may be your own comfort level. Using that Cinnabon example again, imagine a better tasting cinnamon roll that costs less, but you never look for it because you love Cinnabon so much. Now ask yourself – is my familiar way of doing things limiting my choices? If you answered yes, it may be time to explore other options.

Searching for a dentist based solely on the lowest premium price is one way to limit yourself. Cost is always important, but so too are convenience, availability, a personal relationship with the dentist, and the quality of work performed. None of which are limited by another dental alternative that’s also simple and free. Brighter, for example, allows patients to manage their dental care by giving them access to pre-negotiated prices at hundreds of certified dentists.

Essentially, patients go online, search for a dentist near them offering the procedure they need, find the price they want, and book the appointment with the concierge service. Making it an easy and affordable alternative for patients who don’t have dental insurance.

A consumer’s best friends are always choice and competition – make sure you consider both before making any purchase. And if you play your cards right and find a dentist that’s right for you, maybe they’ll let you eat as many Cinnabons as you want.