The dentists who read the blog might not be happy about this post, but it’s something I’ve been dealing with a bit since I became a partner a few months ago.  I now pay for all of my dental care, one way or another.  I’ve been trying to figure out the least expensive way to do so.  My partnership has “dental insurance” where you pay the dentist cash, then submit your forms for reimbursement to the insurance company.  My dentist gives me a 10% discount for paying cash, then the insurance company reimburses me for something like 50-60% of what’s left up to something like $2500 a year.  The insurance company doesn’t negotiate any lower rates for me, but it still seemed to be a pretty good deal when I was an employee and wasn’t paying the insurance premiums.  Now, as a partner, I pay a tax-deductible premium of ~ $100 a month for my family for this insurance.

I’ve wondered if perhaps I’d be better off just dumping the insurance and just paying cash for everything, especially since this insurance company doesn’t negotiate any lower rates for me.  I was discussing this with the front desk staff at the dentist’s office when they suggested I get a dental discount card if I was going to pay cash for my dental care.  I applied for their suggested card today and then went in for my dental appointment.  The card is free and now instead of getting 10% off for paying cash I get 20-30% off for paying cash.  I can still submit the claim to the insurance company.  So I guess for the last couple of years I’ve just been overpaying for my care since the dentist is obviously willing to accept less than I was paying.  There’s apparently no issue using this discount card even with my current insurance.


I’m still not sure whether or not to drop the insurance.  It doesn’t insure against any type of financial catastrophe, since there is a fairly low maximum they’re going to pay even if all my teeth are injured.  They also don’t negotiate any type of discount for me.  The dental discount card is better for that.  But at least some of the expense of dental care is now paid pre-tax (since I’d rather not use my HSA for that.)

I suppose I could also go out on the open market and buy a real dental insurance policy, that provided catastrophic coverage, paid a higher percentage of costs, didn’t require me to apply for reimbursement later, and negotiated lower rates.

How do you pay for your dental care?  Do you have employer paid dental insurance, purchase your own dental insurance, purchase your own “dental reimbursement insurance” (like I have), use a dental discount card, or just pay cash?  Why wouldn’t everyone use a dental discount card?  Why would a dentist’s office pass out pamphlets advertising a free card that causes him to be paid less?

[Update:  Since writing this post I’ve actually bought the dental insurance associated with my HDHP.  For the same price as my group plan, I get much better benefits- free preventive care and significant discounts on everything else.  There is still a fairly low out of pocket maximum, but at least it gives me the chance to pay a negotiated price for my dental care using pre-tax money and I no longer have to wait for reimbursement.]