Tips to make Orthodontia more affordable
So, you just walked out of the orthodontist’s office and you’re holding a “Financial Worksheet” that looks more complicated than your first mortgage. What next? If you’re like many people, you will sign on the dotted line and agree to pay for the next 24 months so that you or your family member can smile from ear to ear and show off beautiful, perfectly straight teeth.
The average American will pay between $3,000 and $6,000 for a course of orthodontic treatment (ValuePenguin.com) and if you are a participant in a Mayo Clinic dental plan, there are steps you can take to make sure that you stay at the lower end of that range.
If you are enrolled in Delta Dental:
- Make sure you are using an in-network provider. You are not required to stay in the network with your Delta Dental coverage, but it can really help. An orthodontist that participates in the Delta Dental network is bound by their network agreement to reduce their bill to the network fee schedule. Even further, there are two levels of network with Delta Dental; Premier and PPO. The PPO network fee schedule is the lowest so if you can, choose a provider who participates in the Delta Dental PPO network. In the provider search results on the Delta Dental website, you’ll find an item that looks like this to indicate which networks they participate in:
- Ask if there is a discount for paying your portion up front. You will likely have a balance due even after your Delta Dental benefit ($1,500 or $2,500 depending on the option you choose) is maxed out. The orthodontist may be willing to discount your balance if you pay in advance. And, there could be other discounts available. Many will discount for military or public servant families. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you are enrolled in the Mayo Reimbursement Account (MRA):
- Negotiate! When you are covered under the MRA, you are essentially a “cash pay” patient. It is your responsibility to pay the provider and file a claim for reimbursement from the $1,500 orthodontia benefit. In some dental practices, "cash pay" patients will be quoted their highest fees (since you don’t have a pre-negotiated network discount). Don’t let that slow you down. You can ask for the bill to be reduced to their lowest network fee schedule. You can ask for a discount for making payments early or on time. You can ask for a discount for wearing green on Thursdays. Chances are that the provider can make some accommodation to lower the bill if you ask.
If you can plan ahead, plan to use a Flexible Spending Account:
- Each year during Open Enrollment, you can elect an amount (currently up to $2,600) to be withheld from your paycheck in the following year and deposited in a Health Care Flexible Spending Account.
- The deductions are pre-tax and you can use the money to reimburse yourself for orthodontia expenses (after your dental plan benefit has been exhausted). The tax savings on a couple of thousand dollars could be as much as $400 to $500, pretty significant.
And finally, if any of this has helped to put the smile back on your face, leave us a comment below and let us know!