When you’re short on money and between jobs, you often start to see where the budget can be cut. maybe that means canceling cable, putting a gym membership on hold, 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 is cancelled, 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 pay an arm and a leg to take care of your teeth. Take a look at these low-cost and no-cost alternatives to dental insurance that are available to you.
federal and state dental programs
Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for one of these federal or state dental programs.
community dental programs
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is a program run by the federal government 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 visit the mission of mercy. The group provides free dental care to, among other things, the uninsured and underinsured through 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 family income. You can visit healthcare.gov to learn more about waivers and assistance, as well as plans in your area. To get dental insurance through the Marketplace, you’ll also need to purchase health insurance there.
Being unemployed qualifies you to enroll in 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. is designed to help those experiencing major life events, such as:
- loss of medical coverage
- a move
- had or adopted a baby
- had a change in income
- gain or lose a dependent
- low income
- have children
Also, check to see if you qualify for Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) through the Marketplace. medicaid and chip are state programs specifically designed to help those who:
low-cost dental options for the unemployed
Even if you don’t qualify for state or federal programs, don’t worry. There are several other ways to get affordable dental coverage if you’re unemployed.
Unlike dentists who work in the private sector, dental schools are there to teach students, not to make a profit. you can get the work you need at a price that will leave you smiling. Since students are still learning and working at a slower pace, make sure you don’t have job interviews scheduled after your procedure, as it will likely take a while. Check 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 agreement between you and your dentist that completely excludes the insurance provider. instead, you pay an annual fee to your dentist in exchange for a reduced fee on dental care. Although all in-house dental plans are structured similarly, the benefits and coverage of each will vary depending on your dentist. be sure to check 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 an entire network of dentists, instead of 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 services at substantial discounts. If you already have a dentist, you can search to see if they accept the dental savings plan. if you don’t have one, you can quickly find one in your area.
Unlike dental insurance, a dental savings plan can be used within 72 hours or less of enrollment. That means you don’t have to wait months for your benefits to take effect. you can take advantage of the savings right away, which is especially important if you’re on a tight budget and unemployed.
Unemployed and uninsured
Finally, being unemployed and uninsured don’t have to go hand in hand. There are a number of avenues to explore regarding dental coverage; we have only scratched the surface. If the first option you search for doesn’t work or doesn’t qualify, keep looking until you find the best option for you.
*Actual costs and savings may vary by carrier, service and geographic location. †Family plan calculations are based on a family of two adults and two children.