The little things, part 3: Dental insurance. Who knew?

A few posts ago I addressed the need to sign up for health coverage now that I have crossed over into the land of the transitioned.  It also left you, the constant reader, hanging on the edge of your seat to find out just what I would do for dental insurance.  The suspense must be killing you, so I’ll get straight to it.

TRICARE offers dental coverage, but it is under the moniker Delta Dental.  I don’t know why they call it that, but they do.  At any rate, the Delta Dental program is pretty much the same on active duty and when retired, with the principle difference being that now the retiree has to pay for it.  Before transitioning, dental care was the same as medical care – all you needed to do was go to the dental clinic and you were taken care of.  Your family, on the other hand, needed to be covered by Delta Dental in a similar manner to how they were covered by TRICARE, so it isn’t that much of a change for them if they were using the plan already.  It is a bit of a change, however, if they weren’t.  In case your family has not been using the dental plan or in case you are moving to a new home, you will have to follow the same protocol as TRICARE enrollment and find an in-plan dentist.

The decision to enroll is time sensitive, because if you wait too long there are some significant ramifications to your coverage in the form of limited coverage.  If you enroll within four months (120 days) of your retirement date then the entire range of treatments are covered (with varying deductibles and whatnot) immediately.  If not, you have to wait a year (365 days) for some expensive little things like crowns and bridges and implants and orthodontic work.  Hmmm….you say.  I don’t need braces, so maybe I’ll just roll the bones and wait to enroll until I really need dental care.  Maybe that works for you, but what about the kids?  Your decision to delay enrollment may seriously impact their ability to get orthodontic work, or more likely it will seriously impact your wallet when you find that they won’t be covered for a year because you chose not to enroll.  Probably a good idea to go ahead and sign up!

The cost is pretty reasonable, and the coverage is competitive with other dental plans.  For an individual the cost is around $45.oo per month, and for a family of four it is around $150.00 or so.  The actual rates vary by location, but these are good ballpark figures to work with.

Here is what your hard earned money gets for you:

Exams and cleanings are fully covered.

Fillings are 80/20 (meaning that Delta Dental covers 80% and you pay 20%)

Endodontics, Periodontics & Oral Surgery (root canals, gum treatment & extractions) are 60/40

Dental Accident Coverage is 100/0

Cast Crowns & Onlays, Bridges, Dentures, Implants, Orthodontics are 50/50

Deductible: $50 per person, $150 cap per family, per benefit year (Oct 1 – Sep 3o)

Maximum: $1,200 per person, per benefit year

Dental Accident Maximum: $1,000 per person, per benefit year

Orthodontic Maximum: $1,500 per person, per lifetime (good for kids with crooked teeth!)

You can check out all of the ins and outs of Delta Dental at their website.  Here is a link to a very informative pamphlet that explains the plan in much greater detail:

To get started, you must pay the first two months’ premiums up front, and you can enroll by mail, online, or by telephone.  Very convenient!  It helps if you ask the dentist that you would like to use if he or she is in the network, before enrolling.  It will make things a lot simpler because then you don’t have to play “find the dentist”.  Ask around – everyone has a dentist they like, and if your friends are former military then the odds are that they are using an in-plan provider.

So get out and find a dentist – and get moving quickly if you want to ensure immediate full coverage for you and your family.  Don’t wait for a filling to fall out or for a tooth to start aching- if you do then you will be out a lot of money that you could have saved with a phonecall and a few minutes of your time!


Lessons Learned:

1.  You are not automatically covered with a dental plan when you transition.  It is not lumped in with the TRICARE medical plan, but instead is a separate and distinct insurance product.  You need to sign up for Delta Dental just like you did for TRICARE.

2.  Time matters.  If you miss the 120 day window you are assuming some risk that can end up being very expensive should you need emergency care or braces for the kids.  Preventive care is free, so don’t wait for your teeth to start falling out!

3.  Ask around.  People generally like their dentists and are happy to share who they are.  A quick call to their office will let you know if they participate in Delta Dental (and in my experience most of them do). Once you enroll, a stop by the office with your documentation will get you into the dentist’s system and set you up for your first post-service appointment.


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