According to a recent study at University of Michigan, roughly 50 percent of senior citizens have no dental coverage, because when senior citizens reach retirement, they often lose the dental benefits they previously had through an employer’s insurance. Seniors then enroll in Medicare, which offers no dental benefits, leaving retirees living with limited income and resources struggling to afford routine oral health care.
Dental Coverage and Medicare
Most seniors qualify for Medicare at age 65, but unfortunately the Medicare program does not provide dental benefits. Unless seniors have a supplemental dental insurance plan, they may be on the hook for 100 percent of their dental bills.
Medicare does make an exception for senior citizens who are undergoing a Medicare-covered medical procedure that requires dental work to perform the procedure. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services states that Medicare will pay for tooth extractions in order to prepare for radiation of neoplastic diseases in the jaw.
Dental Coverage and Medicaid
Seniors with very low income may enroll in Medicaid to help supplement Medicare. According to Medicare Resources, 12.1 million or 20 percent of seniors in the U.S. qualify for dual enrollment in both programs as of July 2021. Medicaid helps pay for Medicare premiums and may help fill gaps in dental coverage.
Each state determines whether or not it will provide dental benefits to adult Medicaid enrollees over age 21. Almost all U.S. states provide at least emergency dental care coverage, but less than half offer comprehensive dental benefits for adults.
Use of Dental Clinics
Some seniors may find affordable dental care at community health clinics. For example, the New Jersey Division of Family Health Services publishes an extensive list of dental clinics located throughout the state that provide free or reduced-cost dental care to low-income individuals of all ages.
Many clinics accept only patients with financial need and will charge for services according to each patient’s household income and ability to pay.
Read More: Florida Benefits for Senior Citizens
Other Dental Plans
Low-income seniors without access to dental benefits through Medicare, Medicaid or a local dental clinic may have to purchase a dental plan to make care more affordable. Unlike dental insurance, which charges a monthly premium, individuals typically pay a single annual fee to enroll in a dental discount plan.
These plans are more affordable in the long term because most cost approximately $75-$100 per year, have little or no waiting period and provide reduced dental fees from a network of participating dental providers. For a low-income senior, this equates to a cost of approximately $8.33 per month but could yield dental discounts of up to 50 percent or more.
Dental Credit Programs
Some dental offices accept a dental credit card. Some places call it a Care Credit card or program. The programs are established in a way that you pay very little to no interest if the balance is paid off in an allotted amount of time. It can be used for a myriad of medical services and allows individuals to pay off services that are absolutely necessary.
Allison Westbrook is an experienced writer of three years with a passion for creating relevant articles for a wide readership. She attended Kilgore College and majored in English. Allison's articles have appeared on such websites as eHow and Trails.com. Her reflective writing angles deliver focused and consistent content.