America’s Hidden Health Care Crisis: Retirees Face Dwindling Dental Coverage

The Truth About Senior Dental Insurance
If you are one of the many working Americans who believe their employer’s retirement benefits include dental insurance, you may be in for a rude awakening:  growing numbers of American employers are dropping their retiree dental benefits. And if you were thinking that Medicare would provide any kind of dental safety net, there is worse news: in most cases, Medicare does not.

Each year, more American retirees are surprised to learn that, if they want dental coverage, they will need to purchase it themselves, as stand alone dental insurance. Many simply choose to go without. Today, roughly 75% of people age 65 and over have no dental coverage whatsoever. Their reasoning may be understandable. In a recent AARP study, 53% of Americans age 50 plus, said they worry they will encounter health expenses after retirement that they won’t be able to afford. Yet, while budgeting for health care coverage, they seem to view their dental health as a luxury. While it may be tempting to view dental insurance as a non-essential, it is inaccurate. And it is dangerous.

The Dental-Medical Connection
According to the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), regular dental check-ups – and the prompt treatment of any dental issues that they uncover – are keys to warding off serious illness. Indeed, countless studies show the link between gum disease and medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But consider this: 75% of American adults are unaware that they have periodontal disease, increasing their risks of complications associated with these other diseases. And nearly 20% of people age 65 and over have untreated dental cavities, putting them at risk for potentially fatal infections. 

The great news is that a routine dental exam can result in the early detection of more than 120 diseases.  The bad news for American seniors: fewer than 2/3 of them went to the dentist in 2012. 

The simple truth is, regular, rigorous dental care is not a luxury.  It is a necessity (if your goal is to enjoy great physical health as you age). But it has become an increasingly unattainable one. Dental care costs have increased steadily over the past several years, while most dental plans available today – even if they are employer supported – provide such meager coverage that trips to the dentist have become a significant financial burden. In his recent Huffington Post article, journalist and health care reform advocate, Wendell Potter pointed to the fact that typical plans include 50% copays for procedures such as crowns and bridges, have “missing tooth” clauses, and top out with $1,500 annual maximums that fall far short of the annual dental costs that many of us face.  With out-of-pocket expenses like these, Potter worries that many of us are delaying those trips to the dentist, and putting our overall physical health at risk.

An Open Invitation from Spirit Dental
Tom Mayer, Spirit Dental’s founder and CEO, agrees.  He says he designed Spirit Dental's insurance products to address the concerns that retirees face today, “because I wanted to create dramatically improved, affordable dental insurance for people like my dad.” Mayer’s father, a school janitor, was a diabetic who suffered the many dental complications associated with diabetes. “By January of each year, he would have his annual deductible spent.  The rest of the year, he paid for everything himself.”

Mayer says his goal is to improve the level of dental coverage in this country.  And he’d like to start that dialogue with this open invitation: “Take 30 seconds out of your day. Get dental insurance quotes from Spirit Dental, along with our (much larger) competitors. You will see the differences.”

After that, says Mayer, consumers can choose their next step: “sign up with Spirit Dental or go back to the giant insurance companies and ask them why they won’t offer you $3,500 annual maximums, no waiting periods, and coverage of major procedures,” says Mayer. Either outcome would be a success to him. “I’m not trying to grow Spirit Dental a lot bigger,” says Mayer. “I’m trying to change the national conversation about dental insurance.”

To learn more about Spirit Dental and Tom Mayer, please visit us at  Click here to get your Spirit Dental 30 Second Quote.

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