It sure is easy to skip going to the dentist or eye doctor if nothing is wrong. It’s only when we’re writhing in pain from a toothache or can’t see two feet in front of us that we get around to making an appointment. Reasons vary as to why people steer clear of the doctor. For some, insurance only covers part of the expense, others have no insurance at all, and many just procrastinate. Still, there are ways we can get our basic needs met. It may involve traveling out of the country or visiting a teaching hospital/community clinic. It could mean using a healthcare credit card to make interest free payments. We would all like to save money when we need expensive dental or vision care.
Procrastination does not pay
If you are at low risk for dental problems, you can benefit from one cleaning a year. Many insurance companies cover at least one cleaning a year, x-rays, and oral evaluations. It behooves insurance holders to take advantage of preventive services. Cleanings and exams allow the dentist to identify potential problems immediately. Familiarize yourself with your insurance plan and use it to your advantage. It’s better to know sooner rather than later if there’s a problem. Don’t wait until you need a root canal!
The good news is that people with dental insurance tend to visit the dentist more regularly than those without insurance. The bad news is that nearly 45 million Americans do not have dental insurance. The group hardest hit are millennials who can’t afford to get insurance because of mounting debt or they’ve taken jobs that don’t offer dental insurance. The result is that more than 30 percent of young adults have untreated tooth decay, the highest of any age group.
Many people can’t justify buying insurance or just assume they can’t afford dental care, so they avoid going altogether. With some research, you’ll discover that there are options. Plus, dentists are used to working with patients who don’t have dental insurance.
If you do have a dental insurance plan, you can often add a vision insurance rider to take advantage of routine eye exams, allowance for glass and contacts, and discounts on other vision services. Only half of 61 million adults classified as being at risk for serious vision loss visited an eye doctor in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you take advantage of preventive eye exams, doctors can spot signs of serious vision problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and even diagnose diabetes and cancer.
Another preventive measure to consider is fixing your eyesight permanently with laser surgery, which could actually save money in the long run. If you spend $1,600 a year in eye care needs (exam, contact lenses, supplies, frames, prescription sunglasses, etc.), you can expect LASIK surgery to pay for itself in less than three to four years.
Applying for a healthcare credit card is one option for those who need dental or vision coverage. It’s a way to pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by medical insurance or to pay the whole bill up front at the time of your visit. Let’s say you need $3,000 worth of work done, you can use a healthcare credit card at the time of service. Depending on the card, you typically have 12-24 months to pay it off with no interest. If you took a year to pay the entire bill, it would cost $250 a month – with no interest. Interest fees incur after the promotional period. You can also apply for much smaller loans for preventive care that would cost a lot less in monthly payments.
Medical travelers seeking dental care outside of their own country do so for one reason: to save money. This growing trend is evidenced by the fact that 500,000 to 800,000 Americans a year get dental care outside of the U.S., mainly in Mexico or Costa Rica while more than 5 million patients worldwide have traveled to destinations across the globe, according to Patients Beyond Borders. Medical tourism, in general, is also much more available with commercial air ambulance services for qualified patients who are transferred by airplane.
Dental clinics in foreign countries are just as good as American dental care and patients can expect to pay 40 to 80 percent less, according to an article in Trip Savvy.
“The United States is not the only country with an illustrious tradition of dental education, innovation, and care. The quality of dental care (and technology) is a source of pride in many other countries, particularly in Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America.” – Trip Savvy
The fact that there’s a robust medical tourism industry reflects the need for a more affordable healthcare system — whether one has insurance or not.
If you have the patience to let an aspiring dentist work on your mouth, a dental school clinic may be the way to go for affordable care. Dental school students need a certain number of hours of on-the-job training experience before they can become licensed. Students work under the supervision of a licensed dentist to ensure quality work. Although the care may not be free, most schools work with patients on a sliding scale basis. Find a list of dental schools here.
Before purchasing vision insurance, you’ll want to determine how much you spend out of pocket in a year. It may be cheaper to pay the costs yourself instead of purchasing a plan on your own or through your employer. It is possible to receive affordable vision care in several ways.
Big box retailers, like Walmart or Target, often have optical centers in-store and they sell contacts and glasses for cheaper than you may get elsewhere. Depending on the location, cost of exams varies because the optometrists are independent contractors. Online retailers are another option for purchasing frames and contacts at an affordable price. Some online stores even allow customers to send in their frames to add prescription lenses. Keep in mind that a prescription from a doctor is still needed. Lastly, consider a discounted vision savings plan that can give members anywhere from 10 to 60 percent discounts on eye exams, frames, lenses and laser surgery.
As you head into the new year, the quest for good health doesn’t need to be overwhelming or intimidating. By taking advantage of preventive care while exploring your options for coverage, your off to a great, proactive start.