By Dr. John Yamamoto, Dental Director of Clinical Innovations, Humana
There are far more benefits to healthy teeth and gums than a bright smile. In fact, your oral health greatly impacts your overall health, and that’s especially true for seniors.
Gum disease affects over two-thirds of adults aged 65 years and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and bacteria and inflammation associated with poor gum health and tooth decay raises the risk of developing heart disease and pneumonia, as well as other serious health conditions. Additionally, losing teeth can lead to difficulty eating and nutritional deficiencies.
Despite the importance of good oral health, dental care often falls by the wayside. According to the Healthy Aging Poll, one in five older adults delayed getting dental care or went without it in the past two years, with cost and lack of dental coverage being major factors.
Although dental coverage is a highly desired supplement for seniors, Original Medicare does not cover routine dental care and procedures. However, many Medicare Advantage plans do. During this year’s Annual Election Period, which began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, people eligible for Medicare should consider the following when comparing dental benefits available on Medicare Advantage plans:
• Will the Plan Meet Your Dental Needs? Carefully review the dental services covered under the plan to ensure they cover the care and procedures you may need in the coming year based on the state of your oral health. If possible, get a dental check-up to learn what your dentist anticipates will be the level of care you’ll require.
• Is Your Dentist a Network Provider? Even if the plan allows you to receive care from any dentist, it may cost you less to use those within the plan’s network of providers. Check to see if your dentist is on the list of the plan’s network providers; if not, look to see if there are other dentists in your area who are in network.
• Are Visits Limited? Some plans limit the number of dental visits covered while others allow you to make as many visits as needed until you reach the maximum dollar amount your plan will pay. Not having limits on the frequency of visits will allow you more flexibility to get the services you need, when you need them.
• Can You Get Care Outside Your State? It’s especially important for those who travel often or are snowbirds spending part of the year in another state to make sure that their dental coverage will cross state lines. For example, Humana’s Medicare Advantage plans offer members in-network care inside and outside of their home state.
When choosing a Medicare plan, make dental coverage a high priority. Good dental care doesn’t just benefit your teeth, it can improve your health and quality of life.
Visit www.Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY: 1-877-486-2048) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can learn about Humana Medicare Advantage plans by going to www.Humana.com/Medicare or calling 1-888-372-2614 (TTY: 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, seven days a week, to speak with a licensed sales agent.
Humana is a Medicare Advantage HMO, HMO SNP, PPO, PPO SNP AND PFFS organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in any Humana plan depends on contract renewal.