I start by saying “My name is Heidi. I am an American and I like discounts!” Now you say, “Hi Heidi!”
Did you follow the JCPenney story? Apparently, when you take away an American’s ability to “get the deal,” they don’t like it. Under their “no discounts” pricing plan, JCPenney reported losing $4.3 billion in one year. YIKES, that’s a big chunk o’ change!
Let’s face it, Groupon has proven that we love discounts on all things: massages, golf games, carpet cleaning, wax jobs, hot air balloon rides, groceries, etc., etc.
Now, let’s apply that to our dental and vision needs. Gone are the days when employers pay for full dental and vision insurance for our whole family. Yet we still need contacts and still get our teeth cleaned (we’re not British, for crying out loud). This is where dental and vision discount plans come into play.
However, in recent years, many of us are without these insurances and have gone out to the open market to pay full retail. And, most people have NO idea they can get dental and vision discount plans.
Most Americans would benefit from a savings plan or network for their dental and vision needs because most of us don’t have dental and vision insurance – and even if we do, insurance is more expensive and doesn't cover what it used to.
Want to know more? Here are some common discount plan questions and answers…
**What is a discount plan or network?
A savings network is simply a group of providers (dentists, optometrists, vision retailers, etc.) that have come together and agreed to give their members discounts on services, procedures and products. Dental and vision discount plans have been around for decades, but were typically only available to those who worked at mega-sized organizations. With the cost of health care skyrocketing, they’re becoming more popular and more available to the general population.
**How does a discount plan work?
Think about Costco. If I'm a member, the dentists/optometrists in the network agree to give me a discount on procedures (exams, root canal, braces, etc.) and the retailers in the network agree give me discounts on products (glasses, contacts, etc.). These discounts are ONLY given to me because I became a member in the discount plan.
**Why do savings plans exist?
Again, think about Costco. These plans are another form of marketing. Every day, dentists, optometrists and vision centers pay for marketing to get you in the their door. Instead of paying for more marketing, savings plan providers agree to be part of the network and give the discount because of the huge member-base and consistent sales volume being sent their way. So, they pass along savings to you rather than paying more advertising dollars.
**Should I have a discount plan?
If you’re lucky enough to have full insurance coverage through an employer, you may not need a dental or vision discount plan. However, that doesn’t describe most Americans. Insurance doesn’t cover cosmetic dentistry or braces, and some expensive procedures are only partially covered by insurance. And, there might be times your insurance is “used up” causing you to pay out of pocket for the remainder of the cost. A discount can come in handy in all these situations. If you don’t have dental or vision insurance, a dental or vision discount network could pay for itself many times over with the savings you’ll get.
Click here for questions to ask when considering dental insurance.
Click here for questions to ask when considering vision insurance.
**How much does a typical savings plan cost?
You should be able to find a solid savings plan for under $15 a month for your family. You’ll find some for more than this, but look around. You’ll most likely get a better deal with multiple networks bundled together (like freshbenies), but find the set of services your family will actually use so you don’t pay for something you won’t use. At a price like this, you can see how the benefit will most likely outweigh the cost. If you save $45 every time your family has a standard teeth cleaning and $100 on glasses/contacts, that adds up over a year!
**How do I find a dental or vision discount plan that’s right for me?
No plan will have every provider in the country, but you want to find one that has a good number of providers in your local area. Smaller communities don’t lend themselves to significant network savings because there are fewer providers from which to choose. If you grew up in a town with one optometrist, you understand this. That optometrist has very little incentive to agree to a vision discount, since they’re the “only game in town.” The bottom line is to find a plan that has multiple providers in your area so you can find those you like.
**How are the savings determined?
The depth of discount is based on how big the member-base is – how much additional business is being driven to a provider. Different providers and different procedures/products will carry different levels of discounts. “Dentist A” may have a retail charge of $200 for a filling, while “Dentist B” might charge $150. Yet, they both might have the same discount plan price of $100 (one gives a 50% discount, the other 33%).
**How deep of a discount should I expect?
The discount will often be stated as a range, such as “20-60% savings”. As you’re considering a savings plan, it’s important to know the average vision discount or dental discount. If a savings plan claims “5-50% savings” but the average is 15%, that’s much less valuable than an average of 35%. Many networks may not want to give you this number, but it’s necessary to consider when making a decision. The better discount plans are able to negotiate average discounts of 30% or better.
**Can these be used with my HSA/HRA/FSA funds?
Yes! Most dental and vision expenses are allowed in these pre-tax funds (but, it’s good to double check first). Using a savings plan will help keep some of that cash in your account!
**What if I already have insurance - do I get a discount on top of my insurance plan?
You don’t get to “double-dip” on discounts (I know...bummer!). For example, if you have dental insurance, you would use that for your normal visits (cleanings, cavities, etc.). Then, you would use the savings program for the things not covered (i.e. braces, cosmetic treatments, during a “waiting period,” or maybe when your dental work goes over the maximum amount allowed in the year). Same for vision insurance – you would use a savings plan for items not covered by your insurance (i.e. designer frames, a second set of glasses in a year, etc.). Some insurance plans pay a portion of your fees, so a vision discount plan can help bring down the total cost allowing you both to pay less.
Click here for examples and stories from real families who’ve saved hundreds with our dental and vision discount plans
The last question is: “what will you spend all your savings on?” That new pair of shoes? A new bike for the spring? Concert tickets (now that you can see the stage with your new glasses and show off that bright new smile)?
Now, it’s your turn! Do you use a savings plan? Tell us if/how it helped save money. Are you considering a savings plan, but still have questions? Ask it here!
About the author: Heidi has a passion for helping busy families save time, money and frustration. She writes articles to do just that, while keeping it fun and simple for her readers! She also speaks on healthcare issues and is the owner of www.freshbenies.com.
About freshbenies: freshbenies (www.freshbenies.com) helps employers and employees take the headache out of healthcare with telehealth, doctors online, advocacy, Rx savings (and more)…all in one easy-to-use card.