Showing posts with label does Medicare cover dental expenses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label does Medicare cover dental expenses. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Dental Hygiene and Your Health - Take Care of Your Teeth to Extend Your Life

Many people who are currently retired or near retirement grew up in a time when dental hygiene consisted of brushing your teeth before bed and visiting the dentist only when you were in pain.  Using dental floss and going to the dentist for regular check-ups was not a priority for many middle class and low-income families in the 1940s and 1950s.  Today, after decades of neglecting their teeth and gums, millions of seniors now suffer from dental problems, including inflammation and gum or periodontal disease. What many do not realize is that neglecting your teeth can also contribute to a wide variety of illnesses which affect your entire body and could even shorten your life.

The good news is that taking a more aggressive approach toward dental care, even in your later years, can reverse or slow down the damage the inflammation may have caused to other organs in your body.

Does Medicare Cover Dental Care?

The bad news is that Medicare does not cover most dental care, dental procedures, or supplies, including fillings, cleanings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental plates, or other dental devices.  Patients pay 100 percent for these non-covered services, which means the patients carry the burden of most dental care.  As a result, it is smart for Medicare recipients to buy a dental supplement or choose a Medicare Advantage plan which includes dental coverage.  Both choices are available and are a good idea for retirees.  You should discuss your options with your insurance agent.

In addition, you may want to find a dental school in your area which might provide some types of dental care at a discount.

Taking care of your teeth as you age can be life saving, so it is important to make sure you find a way to access the care you need.

Medical Advantages of Better Dental Care

Fewer Lost Teeth - The most obvious advantage to caring for your teeth and gums is that you are less likely to lose your teeth as you age.  According to AARP, the current average amount an American over the age of 65 spends on dental care is $15,340 over a 20-year period.  People who spend the last decades of life getting dentures, implants or undergoing multiple root canals may actually spend significantly more than that amount.  Learning to take proper care of your teeth could reduce this expense substantially.

Healthier Heart - People who have poor dental hygiene may develop endocarditis, which is an infection or inflammation of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves.  This can be a fatal heart problem.  In other words, ignoring your teeth could kill you.

Healthier Kidneys and other organs - Research has shown a correlation between poor periodontal health and atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries.  They now know that atherosclerosis is suspected to contribute to a variety of health problems, including chronic kidney disease. 

Lower Cancer Risk - According to a study done in 2017, postmenopausal women who have a history of periodontal (gum) disease are also a a heightened risk of developing breast, esophageal, gallbladder, skin and lung cancer.  

Clearer Lungs - Another study showed that patients who practice good oral care during a hospital stay are able to decrease their risk of hospital-related pneumonia by 39 percent. Even if you are so ill you do not feel like taking care of your teeth, forcing yourself to do so could save your life. Brushing your teeth and using floss regularly at home may also help protect your lungs from unnecessary infections.

Reduced Blood Sugar Levels - People who have periodontal disease and diabetes at the same time may have a more difficult time controlling their blood glucose levels.  Doing everything possible to deal with both these medical issues in appropriate ways will help minimize your risk.  

Less Erectile Dysfunction - Most men have never considered that there may be a link between caring for their teeth and their sexual function.  The reason for the connection is because chronic inflammation in any part of the body, including the gums, can eventually damage the lining of blood vessels in all parts of the body, including the sexual organs.  This one reason alone may make men more willing to care for their teeth and gums!

How to Properly Care for Your Teeth and Gums

See a Dentist at Least Every Six Months - Your dental hygienist and dentist will check your mouth, looking for signs of oral cancer, decay and periodontal pockets in your gums.  If they notice a problem, they will recommend a course of treatment.  It is smart to follow their advice, whether that means flossing your teeth more often, having cavities filled, getting a root canal, or undergoing gum surgery.  While some of these treatments may seem expensive at the time, in the long run they can be less expensive than allowing dental problems to go untreated.  If your dentist suggests that you see him more often than every six months, it is a good idea to follow their instructions.  It could save you money on more expensive treatments in the future.

Follow Your Dentist's Instruction for Oral Care - Between visits to the dentist, it is important you follow your dentist's instructions regarding flossing, the type of toothbrush you should be using, and the type of mouthwash, toothpaste and other products which will work best for your particular dental hygiene issues.  For example, they may recommend products specifically designed to treat dry mouth or tooth sensitivity. If you have any questions about which products are best for you, you should ask them directly.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs and pull-down menu at the top of the page for links to hundreds of additional helpful articles. 

Source of facts used in this article:  AARP Bulletin, October 2018

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Dental School at the University of New England

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

What Medicare Does Not Cover

Most adults in the United States over the age of 65 are covered by Medicare.  American workers paid premiums in advance into the program during our working years.  We did this so our premiums for basic Medicare insurance coverage after retirement would be affordable.

Once we sign up for our basic Medicare insurance, we can also add a supplement, sometimes called a Medigap policy, through a private insurance carrier; or, we can choose a private Medicare Advantage plan, like Kaiser Permanente or SCAN, to handle our Medicare insurance for us.  Adding a private insurance supplement or using a Medicare Advantage plan will assure us that our out-of-pocket costs will be reduced.  However, many people assume all their future medical expenses will be completely covered after they reach the age of 65.  Unfortunately, they are often shocked to discover they will still have to pay out-of-pocket for some important expenses, including premiums, co-pays, deductibles and a number of health needs which are NOT covered by Medicare.

You Should be Prepared for Uncovered Medical Bills

It is important for everyone to realize that basic Medicare does not cover a number of important conditions which could affect almost everyone during the last few decades of life.  By knowing what is not usually covered, you can search for policies which will help fill in some of the gaps or you may want to put aside extra money for your future medical costs.

Hearing Aids Are Usually Not Covered

Basic Medicare and most Medigap plans do not cover normal hearing tests or hearing aids.

Solutions:  Look for a Medicare Advantage plan which includes hearing care, sometimes for an additional premium.  You might be able to sign up for a discount plan for hearing aids.  There are also some special discounts for low income people.  Within a few years, it may be possible to buy certain types of hearing aids without a prescription, due to new legislation recently passed by Congress.  This could bring down their cost.  However, be prepared for the fact that hearing aids can cost thousands of dollars.

You May Want a Dental Care Supplement

Basic Medicare and most Medigap plans do not cover either routine check-ups or major dental work such as root canals or dentures.  If you lose teeth as you age and need dentures or dental implants, these items are not covered, either, and they can be quite expensive.

Solutions:  You may find a Medicare Advantage plan which offers reduced cost dental care, either as part of their basic plan or for an extra premium.  It is also possible to purchase an individual dental insurance plan or private dental discount plan.  You may also be able to get low-cost dental care from a local dental school.  It is important that you NOT wait until you actually have an abscessed tooth or other serious dental problem before you look for dental insurance.  Find a policy as soon as you start Medicare and expect to have out-of-pocket expenses, even with the dental insurance.

You Will Need a Vision Care Supplement

Medicare, combined with most Medigap plans, will cover certain types of eye diseases or damage such as cataracts.  However, those plans do not cover the cost of routine eye exams or corrective lenses such as glasses and contact lenses.  In addition, they often only cover the least expensive type of replacement lens after cataract surgery.  If you want the more advanced lenses, you could be expected to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

Solutions:  Some Medicare Advantage plans do cover a portion of your vision care costs, usually for an extra premium.  If you need your vision corrected or anticipate vision problems, it may be worth it to purchase a vision insurance policy to help control your out-of-pocket costs.  However, no matter what plan you have, you should still expect to pay out-of-pocket for certain expenses, such as contact lenses, eyeglasses, co-pays and deductibles.

Ask About Podiatry Coverage under Your Supplement or Advantage Plan

Medicare does not cover routine medical care for feet, such as having a callus removed. However, it will cover more serious foot problems.

Solutions:  If you have foot problems and need the care of a podiatrist, try to find a Medigap or Medicare Advantage policy which will cover your costs.  Otherwise, put aside extra money to cover your care.

Plastic Surgery for Cosmetic Reasons is Not Covered

Are you hoping to get a tummy tuck or facelift as you age?  Medicare will not generally cover those expenses.  However, if your eyelids sag so much that it affects your vision, Medicare may cover an eyelid lift.

Solutions:  If you believe you are going to want cosmetic surgery as you age, you will need to put aside the money to cover the cost.  You may also want to consider getting the treatments you want at a local medical school.  They will still charge you, but less than an established board certified plastic surgeon in private practice.

Emergency Medical Care Outside the U.S. is Generally Not Covered by Medicare

Basic Medicare and most Medicare Advantage plans do not offer coverage for beneficiaries when they are outside the U.S.

Solutions:  If you plan to retire outside the United States, as hundreds of thousands of other Americans have done, your best bet is to buy a health insurance plan in the country where you will be living.  If you travel back and forth between the U.S. and other countries, you may consider one of two options.  First, you could look for a Medigap policy which will cover you whether you are in the U.S. or outside the country.  The other option is to have a Medicare plan which will cover you while you are in the U.S. and a health insurance plan in the country where you spend the most time.  If you can afford it, this would give you the widest range of choices for care.

If you live in the United States and only need coverage when you travel on vacation, some Medigap plans cover overseas medical costs.  However, many frequent travelers purchase travel insurance policies which cover basic healthcare expenses while you are traveling.  You may also want to consider "medevac" insurance which will cover either the cost of transportation to a medical facility overseas or a return trip home in the event of a medical emergency.

Long-term Assisted Living and Nursing Home Care is Not Covered

Neither Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans, nor Medigap plans will cover the cost of permanently living in an assisted living facility or nursing home.  However, Medicare will cover the cost of a temporary stay in a rehab facility while you recover from surgery or a serious illness.

Solutions:  Everyone needs to have a plan for how they will be cared for, should they become seriously ill, too frail to live on their own, or develop dementia.  You may have an adult child who is willing and able to care for you during the final years of your life.  You may also want to purchase long-term care insurance to cover the cost of assisted living or the expense of having a home healthcare aide take care of you in your home.  If you have a large retirement income, you may be able to cover these expenses without insurance.  On the other hand, if you have a low income and few assets, Medicaid (a separate program from Medicare) often pays the cost of long-term care.  For veterans and their spouses, there are also benefits available to pay a portion of their long-term care.  However you decide to handle this issue, it is important you have a plan in place long before you need it.  The younger you are when you purchase long-term care insurance, the less expensive it will be.  In addition, once you have a serious health problem, you may not be qualified to purchase long-term care insurance at any price.

The bottom line is that everyone needs to know what will be covered by Medicare and they should either have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan to maximize their insurance coverage.  Once you know which uncovered needs you have, you should decide how those expenses will be handled as you age.  Your medical expenses could become quite high, even if you have Medicare and a supplement.  The more money you can save to cover these expenses, the better prepared you will be when you have large medical bills.

If you are interested in learning more about Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical issues as you age, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

You are reading from the blog:

ASR Search Engine
Photo:  Morguefile images