When you’re tight on money and in between jobs, you usually start to look at where the budget can be trimmed. Maybe that means canceling the cable, freezing a gym membership or putting your social life on hold until you’re a little more financially stable. But sometimes we don’t have a choice in what gets canceled, like with dental insurance. If you signed up for dental insurance through your employer and lost your job that means you also lost your coverage.
Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean your oral hygiene should suffer, or that you should have to pay an arm and a leg to take care of your teeth. Take a look at these low and no cost alternatives to dental insurance that are available to you.
Federal and state-run dental programs
Depending on your economic situation, you may qualify for one of these federal or state-run dental programs.
Community dental programs
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is a federally-run program that provides free or low-cost health care and other services to economically disadvantaged people across the country. You can find a community program near you by visiting HRSA.gov.
Free dental clinics
Another option if you live in Arizona, Maryland, Pennsylvania or Texas, is to check out Mission of Mercy. The group provides free dental care, among other things, to those who are uninsured or underinsured via mobile clinics.
ObamaCare dental insurance
The Affordable Care Act, also commonly known as ObamaCare, offers sliding-scale pricing based on where you live, your household demographics and expected household income. You can visit healthcare.gov to learn more about exemptions and assistance, as well as plans in your area. In order to get dental insurance through the Marketplace, you’ll also need to purchase health insurance through there.
Being unemployed qualifies you to sign up for coverage within 60 days of losing your job-based health coverage. You don’t have to wait for open enrollment. This is known as a Special Enrollment Period. It’s designed to assist those who are going through major life events, such as:
- Loss of health coverage
- A move
- Gotten married
- Had a baby or adopted
- Had a change in income
- Gained or lost a dependent
Additionally, check to see if you qualify for Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) through the Marketplace. Medicaid and CHIP are state-run programs specifically designed to help those who are:
- Have children
Low-cost dental options for the unemployed
Even if you don’t qualify for the federal- or state-run programs, don’t fret. There are several other ways to get affordable dental coverage if you’re unemployed.
Unlike dentists working in the private sector, dental schools are there to teach the students, not make a profit. You can get the work you need at a price that will leave you smiling. Since the students are still learning and working at a slower pace, be sure you don’t have any job interviews planned after your procedure, as it is likely to take a while. Check out the American Dental Association for a list of dental programs in your area.
In-house dental plans
Another popular and cost-effective option is an in-house dental plan. This is an arrangement between you and your dentist that cuts out the insurance provider completely. Instead you pay an annual fee to your dentist in exchange for a reduced rate on dental care. Although in-house dental plans are all structured similarly, the benefits and coverage under each will vary depending on your dentist. Be sure to review everything in writing before signing up.
Dental savings plan
A dental savings plan, also known as a dental discount plan, is similar to an in-house dental plan. The key difference and advantage is that a dental savings plan gives you access to a whole network of dentists, versus just one. However, it is not dental insurance. You pay a nominal annual membership fee, starting at just $80, to join a plan. When you do, you’ll have access to a number of dentists who have agreed to provide substantially discounted services. If you already have a dentist, you can search to see if they accept dental savings plan. If you don’t, you can quickly find one in your area.
Unlike dental insurance, a dental savings plan can be used within 72 hours or less of joining. That means you don’t have to wait months on end for your benefits to become effective. You’re able to take advantage of the savings right away, which is especially important if you’re on a tight budget and unemployed.
Unemployed and uninsured
In closing, being unemployed and uninsured do not have to go hand-in-hand. There are a number of avenues to explore regarding dental coverage; we’ve just scratched the surface. If the first option you look into doesn’t pan out, or you don’t qualify, keep looking until you find the best fit for you.