*This post is sponsored by Health Insurance Comparison
I spent the most awkward part of my teen years with a face full of metal. It wasn’t pretty – neither were my teeth before the installation, though. Overbite, over-crowded, teeth criss-crossed here, there and everywhere. The best part of three years was spent with a pocket full of those teeny tiny elastic bands – handy for jaw realignment and for plaiting corn-rows in your mate’s hair at lunchtime.
My parents didn’t have health insurance, and I know my braces were a financial burden on them. So when my eldest daughter Ruby’s adult teeth started coming in in the haphazard fashion that my own had, I knew we were in for a wallet draining.
Thankfully, it was apparent from pretty early on that Ruby would need braces, so I had time to plan – Homer-style.
A few phone calls and a bit of shopping around meant that I was able to get us a health insurance policy that halved the out-of-pocket expense for Ruby’s orthodontics, thankfully, because the bill came in at close to $8000 *faints*. Here’s hoping the other three kids take after dad in the mouth department.
How health insurance can reduce the financial burden of braces
Braces are not just cosmetic, there are all kind of reasons that you or your child might need corrective treatment on your teeth or jaw, and if you do it will pay to be armed with some information on how to get the best assistance with those hefty fees.
For orthodontic treatment on both the upper and lower jaws, the figure could easily reach $4,500 and could climb as high as $8,000. The costs generally won’t be as high if treatment is only needed on one jaw, although this could still be costly if the work needed on that jaw will be extensive. Unfortunately, Medicare doesn’t offer support for orthodontic treatment but this is where health insurance Extras cover can come into its own.
The limitations of Medicare
Medicare doesn’t offer much support for dental treatment in general, except in exceptional situations. The Child Dental Benefits Scheme (CDBS) does provide a small contribution towards the cost of kids dental services but this is capped at $1,000 over 2 consecutive calendar years. This isn’t going to go a very long way for most families, especially if your child does need orthodontic treatment (or other fairly complex dental work).
It’s potentially useful for basic dental services if your child is aged between 2 and 17 and is eligible for Medicare, and you receive a government benefit such as Family Tax Benefit Part A for at least one day of the calendar year.
Ruby and her braces. Fingers-crossed the other kids have straight teeth … ouch!
How health insurance ‘Extras’ can help cover the costs of orthodontics
Having health insurance with Extras cover can help to ease out-of-pocket costs for dental treatments in general but it can be particularly invaluable for major dental work such as orthodontics. With Medicare not offering support for this type of dental treatment, you would otherwise be looking at big out-of-pocket costs that you would have to fund by yourself.
Waiting periods are something that you’ll need to be aware of in general for Extras cover, and this is definitely no exception for Orthodontics cover. Generally speaking, most health funds will have a 12 month waiting period for orthodontic treatment so it’s not something that you can quickly buy and claim for if you’re told that your child will need to have braces.
You’ll need to have it in place at least a year before you actually anticipate needing to use the cover and with some health funds, it can be beneficial to have Orthodontics cover in place some time before you might be using it. Loyalty bonuses can build up over time for orthodontic treatment for each year that you have the cover in place but don’t use it (up to a maximum level). Not all health funds will offer this but it’s something worth thinking about if you suspect that your child will need orthodontic treatment and you can afford to have cover in place several years before this.
Choosing Orthodontic cover
Basic Extras policies almost always include some form of dental cover but this is usually General Dental for preventative treatments and examinations. For more extensive dental treatments, you’ll need to have mid to top level Extras cover instead. This includes Major Dental services, which often includes orthodontics. Some health funds have separate Orthodontics cover that is not incorporated into Major Dental, in which case you’ll need to also have this in place to be covered for orthodontic treatment.
You’ll also need to be aware of annual and lifetime limits on your policy. These will vary between health funds and can prove particularly important if your child needs corrective treatment to both jaws. It’s definitely a good idea to shop around to see what various health funds are offering in terms of annual and lifetime limits for orthodontic treatment as low limits will significantly increase your potential for out-of-pocket costs if your child’s treatment costs more than your policy will allow you to claim for.
Ruby has nearly come to the end of her braces journey, here’s hoping that, unlike me, she remembers to wear her plate!
Have you had any experience with a hefty dental bill?