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Dental Insurance for the Unemployed

Unwanted unemployment can be one of life’s toughest challenges. Aside from the loss of income, you might also be faced with the loss of health and dental insurance.

Unfortunately, your teeth don’t particularly care about your current employment status. If you need dental care, you might not be able to wait until you’re on better financial footing. Fortunately, dental care is still possible even when you’re unemployed. Here’s a closer look at your options:

What Should I Do After Losing My Employment-Based Health Insurance?

Roughly 90% of people with private dental insurance have it through an employer. Losing your job means also losing your dental insurance.  While this can feel like getting kicked when you’re already down, options are available.

First, take advantage of any advanced warning you might have related to layoffs or another change in employment status. Try to schedule a check-up while you still have insurance. Ideally, you’ll have no dental problems, which can allow for more time to pass before another check-up is needed.

Many complicated dental procedures require several appointments. If you lose your dental insurance while in the middle of undergoing a procedure, you have two options. Many cosmetic procedures can be paused until a suitable later date.

However, procedures such as root canals and bridges should be completed according to schedule. Fortunately, many states require insurance companies to pay for an entire procedure after the first “decisive appointment” occurs. As long as the procedure has started, insurance will cover the rest even if you lose your policy.

When Should I Get New Dental Insurance?

If you have no dental problems, you can go about six months between check-ups. But you should try to obtain new dental insurance within about two months after losing your old policy. Otherwise, you’ll run into potential limitations with your new carrier.

Most insurers typically impose a waiting limit for new policyholders. You’ll have to wait about six months before the policy will cover root canals, bridges and other common procedures. However, many insurers will waive the waiting period if you can prove you’ve had dental insurance recently. The time period varies by insurer and policy but two months without insurance is usually the maximum limit.

What is COBRA Insurance?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act is a federal law which requires employers to provide health insurance for former employees. Coverage is available for up to 36 months. Generally, the business must employ at least 20 people in order to be eligible. You qualify for COBRA coverage if you were fired, quit or transferred from full to part-time work.

While COBRA can be a great way to avoid a lapse in coverage, premiums are often very expensive. You’ll pay group rates but without the employer’s contribution. Don’t sign up for COBRA benefits until you’ve explored all your other options.

Can I Get Dental Insurance through the ACA Marketplace?

Usually, yes. Both your state’s ACA marketplace or the federal marketplace offer two types of dental insurance:

  • Health plans which include dental coverage
  • Standalone dental coverage

Recently losing your health coverage is considered a Qualifying Life Event. You can purchase a policy from the ACA marketplace at any point within 60 days after losing your employer-provided plan. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the next open enrollment period.

The ACA mainly focuses on health insurance. While some dental options are available, the choices are usually pretty limited and may often focus on children’s dental needs. Plus, you can’t simply purchase a standalone dental plan, you also have to purchase health insurance – make sure whatever insurance plan you choose includes adult dental coverage..

Are Dental Insurance Alternatives Available?

If COBRA and ACA policies don’t seem like a good fit, you can always purchase an individual dental insurance policy. One major benefit of doing so is you can potentially avoid an extended lapse in coverage. But private policies are typically significantly more expensive than what you’ll find on the ACA marketplace.

However, maybe you don’t want dental insurance at all. After all, adding to your monthly expenses is typically not what you want during a period of unemployment. While maintaining coverage does let you avoid any potential waiting limits, dropping it means you can avoid paying monthly premiums.

Fortunately, even if you don’t have dental insurance, you can still save on dental care with a dental discount plan. Often called an affordable alternative to insurance, dental discount plans offer savings between 10% and 60% on a wide variety of dental procedures. While the specifics will vary by plan, you can save on preventative, minor and major dental procedures. Plus, discount plans are accepted by over 100,000 dental professionals across the country.

Dental procedures are a great way to save right away. After applying for a plan, you can receive your dental discount membership card within just a few days. Then you simply present your card at the office of any participating dentist for instant savings on any eligible procedures. Plans start as low as just $9 a month, which is often much more affordable than standard dental insurance premiums.