Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eyes and Teeth

Workers in corporate America are mostly spoiled. Until they leave their job, or their job leaves them, they are insulated and totally out of touch with health care costs in the real world.

They have no idea how much a routine office visit or prescription med's cost. They think in terms of $20 for health care.

The same is true for eye's and teeth.

Employer plans offer free or low cost annual exams. Fillings are usually $40 or less. Crowns might be $300. Eyeglasses are $40 or so unless you opt for designer frames and advanced optics.

When these orphans come to me looking for health insurance they also inquire about dental and vision insurance.

Now we start the re-education process.

Office visits to a medical doctor usually run $50 - $60 without a copay. Med's are another story, especially if you have the latest and greatest brand name.

I undertake the task of educating people not only on what health care costs, but how to effectively make better use of their dollars.

That is a major hurdle for most. But what about vision and dental insurance?

Individual vision insurance is almost impossible to find and when you can find it the premium is outrageous. According to an industry trade magazine American's spend an average of $240 per year on vision care and corrective lens.

Will someone explain why you need insurance for vision care? When you can find an insured vision plan the premium is in the $40 per month range.

Paying $500 per year to insure an average expense of $240 doesn't make sense to me.

The same magazine indicated average annual dental expenses for adults range from $1200 to $1800.

That figure seems high to me.

Two checkups and cleanings per year at $150 (or less) per visit still leaves over $1,000 in "other" dental expenses.

Reading between the lines it appears the BULK of dental expenditures are for cosmetic procedures such as bonding and teeth whitening. These procedures are usually not covered by dental insurance since they are not medically necessary.

So how much does individual dental insurance cost?

About $30 - $40 per month per adult.

And what is covered?

Almost nothing during the first year.

You can't access benefits for crowns, root canals or periodontal expenses. Orthodontia (braces) for adults is almost never covered. Braces for children can be covered after 12 months but the children have to be on on the parents plan, the premium doubles or triples and the maximum payout for orthodontia is usually $1,000 or less over their lifetime.

So the economics of insurance for eye's and teeth shakes out like this.

You can expect to spend $400 - $500 per year per person for a benefit valued at $300 or less.

My advice?

Save your money for things that really matter.
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