Express Money Express with Jill Kerby - Dental costs

The White Paper on Universal Health Insurance (UHI) may have been completely devoid of any costings for this great reform, but it was specific about one thing – that there is to be no dental care included in the minimum UHI package from 2019.

The White Paper on Universal Health Insurance (UHI) may have been completely devoid of any costings for this great reform, but it was specific about one thing – that there is to be no dental care included in the minimum UHI package from 2019.

jill@jillkerby.ie

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The White Paper on Universal Health Insurance (UHI) may have been completely devoid of any costings for this great reform, but it was specific about one thing – that there is to be no dental care included in the minimum UHI package from 2019.

If you want a set of healthy, sparkling teeth you will have to pay for them yourself.

Since medical card holders and people on very low income are earmarked to be given their UHI plan free or subsidised, there is an assumption that certain dental treatment or cover for the latter will continue. The question mark is whether all preschool and primary school children given referrals from child and school health services will continue to receive the same level of dental treatment from HSE clinics and whether the sole, free annual check-up for PRSI contributors will also continue.

I have just one offspring, who has been blessed with good teeth, something neither his father nor I experienced. Luckily he has been exposed to a good diet, fluoridated water and toothpaste and received sealant treatment as a young child. His dental bills have been very low compared to other children we know and those bills for broken, chipped, crooked, rotten and impacted teeth have amounted to thousands of euro a year for many of their parents.

With my son approaching his 21st birthday, after which he will be classified as an adult, I’m reviewing the cost of his healthcare (which includes private cover - PHI) and how to get best value. First, a healthy young adult does not need advanced health insurance. Nor do they need the most expensive dental insurance, though it is a fraction of PHI. There are various dental payment options starting with private health insurance plan benefits. All PHI covers some emergency medical/dental events where teeth are damaged, but the amount paid will depend on your policy.

Policies that include or offer separate day to day cash benefits for out-patient costs will also pay something towards routine dental benefits like an annual check-up and teeth cleaning. However this might only amount to €20-€35 towards the annual bill. Higher cost plans like the one I have - Laya’s HealthCareTotal Health Select - covers 50%-75% of routine care costs up to €500 a year and accidental treatment benefits up to €500, but it is an expensive policy.

Another option is to take out separate dental insurance.

DeCare Dental Insurance, (www.decaredental.ie) is an American insurer and has operated here for 10 years. It has four child and four adult plans that cost between €74.64 and €125.52 a year and between €108.60 and €219.12 respectively. All premiums cover a minimum of two annual dental exams, x-rays, two dental cleanings and one emergency treatment.

The second level plan for children (at €96.48 p.a), cover 70% of fillings, extractions and gum disease treatments (and sealants/separators/stainless steel crown) up to €1,000 a year after a 3 month waiting period. (The first plan maximum annual payment is €500 for adults and children.)

Adults get 70% of the cost of these common treatments on the top three plans (after three months) up to €1,000 per year but orthodontic care is only available on the top plan for both adults and children. Maximum benefits rise from €1,000 to €1,500 to €2,000 depending on the treatment; a two year waiting period must be served.

Finally, you should also check out dental cash benefits from HSF, the cash plan company (www.hsf.ie). Depending on the plan – which can range from just over €100 a year to over €1,050 a year for the entire family, total annual dental bills that can be claimed also range from about €80 a year to as much as €800 a year shared between the family members.

Working out what is the best option can be complicated and time consuming. Use a good specialist health insurance broker to help you find the right combination for you. Young families tend to spend far more on non-hospital costs (like GPs, dental) than older people with chronic illnesses who may need hospital treatment; a combination of a good health cash plan and dental insurance may be more affordable for them than full health insurance.

If you can’t afford any insurance – and 250,000 have dropped their private cover in the last five years - at least make sure you keep all your receipts and claim back standard 20% tax relief on Med 1 and 2 forms from the Revenue. You can claim up to four years worth of back medical and dental expenses. www.revenue.ie/en/tax/it/leaflets/it6.html