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Why Americans Have the Worst Dental Insurance Ever

Why does American dental insurance cover so little for such expensive procedures?

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There is really no such thing as true dental insurance. With traditional health insurance, you actually get more back than you paid in premiums, when you have serious medical problems. It’s not so with dental insurance.

You’ve probably paid more in dental insurance premiums than you’ll get back if you ever need serious dental work. Your annual coverage will run out long before your need for dental care. You’ll have to make up the difference out of your own pocket. If you don’t have, and can’t borrow the money — or find a better price — you go without dental care or put it off for as long as you can.

That’s what I did. After my second root canal, I didn’t make another appointment. I knew I’d have better dental coverage starting in January, when I would finally be covered by my husband’s insurance.  Before the Court struck down DOMA, I’d have incurred thousands of dollars in taxes if I’d used the family plan that covered my husband and our kids, because it would’ve been considered a “gift.”

I have a new dentist now. He knows all about my childhood experience, and works to make sure my visits are as free of pain and anxiety as possible. The two permanent crowns are done. I’m due back this week for a cleaning and checkup, and plan to do so every six months from now on. I hope the regular visits, and my own dental  hygiene regimen, will reduce my chances of having another dental crisis.

Like I said, I’m fortunate. Childhood trauma caused me to neglect my dental care, but I was able to get the care I needed — eventually. There are millions of Americans who can’t, through no fault of their own.

This week marks the four-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which only mandates dental coverage for nearly 5.3 children eligible for other federal programs, but not adults. Perhaps, as a commenter on the first post in Potter’s series suggests, it’s time for an “Affordable Dental Care Act.”

 
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