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As we discussed, we are seeing more of these type programs for self-employed folks, those without dental insurance at their work place and small companies that would like to offer some type of dental program.
Would they bring more patients to your office? Probably so – but at a cost to your bottom line. As with all discount programs (and that includes the traditional benefit plans which ask you to discount your fees also), you have to look carefully at these programs and how they will affect your bottom line.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For Steve Less, a self-employed father of three, the price of traditional dental insurance was tough to swallow. "The cost was excessive on a monthly basis," he said. "When you added it up, it just didn't make any sense." According to the National Association of Dental Plans, 97 percent of dental insurance benefits are offered through employers. For the self-employed and unemployed, that leaves few options. Now, an increasing number of consumers are signing up for discount dental plans. That discount rate can range anywhere from 10 percent to 60 percent. "With the economic downturn, discount dental plans are one of the only products that have been available to individuals to purchase on their own," said Evelyn Ireland. The plans are marketed on sites like DentalPlans.com, Brighter.com and DentalSave.com. They operate similar to warehouse clubs. Customers pay a yearly membership, typically between $75 and $200. "The dental plan negotiates the discounts with the dentist, but the dentist gets the full fee, or their payment at the negotiated discounted rate from the consumer at the time of service," Ireland said. Jenn Stoll is with DentalPlans.com, which lets customers compare the cost of more than 30 different dental savings plans. "Dental savings plans allow people to save on typical procedures, such as cleanings and X-rays, root canals, crowns and even dental implants," Stoll said. Many also offer discounts on cosmetic procedures and orthodontics. "Through DentalPlans.com we actually hooked up with a terrific orthodontist. It came in a little under $3,000," said Less, adding that he was originally quoted around $6,000 for his son's braces. Is a discount dental plan for you? Think about the coverage you need. While there are no co-pays, deductibles or annual limits, only about 3 percent of the population that has dental benefits reaches that annual maximum, Ireland said.