Acquiring Dental Insurance Coverage
For most people, you will likely need to acquire your own dental insurance policy after you divorce. How you obtain this insurance, the rates you will pay, and when your policy becomes effective will depend on a number of factors.
Eligibility & Enrollment Periods
Most insurance carriers will only allow you to purchase insurance or make changes to your plan during specific “enrollment periods.” However, if your coverage has been affected by a major event, like disability, death, divorce, or job loss, you may be able to make changes or purchase insurance outside the general enrollment period. There are usually a limited number of days after the “qualifying event” for you to make these changes. Contact your benefits administrator for more information and your eligibility.
If you were working at the time of your divorce but just on your spouse’s dental insurance because it was cheaper or better, you may be able to switch to your own employer’s policy.
If you started a new job recently, you may qualify for your employer’s dental insurance, if it provides one. You may have to work a certain amount of time for the employer before you become eligible for insurance. Contact your benefits administrator for more information and your deadline to sign up.
Purchasing Coverage Privately
If dental insurance is not available through your or your ex’s employer, you may be able to purchase or obtain coverage privately. Your options may include;
COBRA coverage allows you to keep your ex-spouse’s employer’s health plan by making payments through the COBRA system. This coverage is available for up to three years after your divorce.
COBRA coverage applies to health plans that are sponsored by:
- State governments
- Local governments
- Private companies with 20 or more employees
- Businesses with fewer than 20 employees when the state has a more expansive law
The downside of COBRA coverage is that you are responsible for paying the entire cost of the insurance product. With employer-sponsored plans, the employer usually pays a significant amount of the premium. For this reason, COBRA coverage is often too expensive for many individuals to maintain. Nonetheless, COBRA coverage may provide temporary coverage while you shop for another plan.
You may also be able to purchase dental insurance through the marketplace. This may allow you to receive an income-based discount so that the cost of insurance is more affordable. Factors that can affect how much your plan costs include:
- Your location
- Your marital status
- Whether you are also covering dependents
- Your household income
- Whether you qualify for cost-sharing reductions
You can generally shop for state marketplace plans in November and December during the annual open enrollment period, or you may be able to enroll during a Special Enrollment Period.
Individual Dental Insurance
Another option for dental insurance after divorce is to purchase an individual dental insurance plan, such as a Dental Health Maintenance Organization Plan or a Dental Preferred Provider Organization Plan. With these plans, you can evaluate numerous plans before choosing the one that best meets your dental needs and budget.
If you live in a state where Medicaid pays for dental costs or otherwise provides dental coverage, you may be able to get your dental costs paid for by Medicaid. Medicaid is very state-specific regarding eligibility, coverage, and other factors, so check with your local agency for information. Insurance is typically provided to pregnant women, seniors, and individuals with disabilities. Low-income individuals may also be able to qualify for Medicaid.
Dental Coverage Cost
The average cost of dental insurance is $360 a year or between $15 and $50 a month, according to Money Under 30. Costs vary depending on your state, household size, and other factors. Carefully consider the monthly premium as well as the maximum amount of coverage you can receive when comparing dental plans.
Dental Insurance for Kids After Divorce
While you may be kicked off your spouse’s dental insurance plan, your children may still be able to receive coverage. To ensure that your children do not lose coverage, you might want to ensure that your settlement agreement or divorce decree includes specific information about your child’s coverage and who is responsible for maintaining it. Many child support orders will also include language that states how medical and dental costs will be split between the parents.
Other Ways to Save on Dental Costs
There may be other ways that you can save on your dental costs, such as:
- Opt for preventative care like regular cleanings so that you minimize the chance of acquiring a serious dental issue
- Ask the dentist for a cash discount
- Use your flexible savings account for dental costs
- Go to a dental school for lower rates
- Attend a community event where dental services are provided
- Attend back-to-school events where dental cleanings are provided
- Visit a low-cost clinic
- Use a discount dental plan
- Shop around before making any appointments
- Attend free dentistry days
- Scout out charitable providers
- Go during a special promotion
Dental insurance should not be something you should have to worry about after divorce. Fortunately, you may have several options available to you. Make sure that you put a plan in place during the divorce process to prevent lapses in coverage.