‘Glitch’ that could be costing you more at the dentist

Poor oral health is regarded as a chronic disease and it’s affecting too many adult Australians.

An Australian Dental Association survey found that over two years, two-thirds of Aussie adults had not been to see their dentist and across five years, a quarter had not been.

And senior dentist Dr Sarah Raphael says a quarter of Australians aged over 75 have teeth affected by decay; 20 per cent have complete tooth loss.

“Poor oral health is one of those chronic diseases that will show up later in life,” she says.

“It’s a slow burn. That is the problem. It takes a long time for it to impact you, and it might not cause too many acute problems right at the outset, but the fact that you have had poor oral health all these years, it comes to a point where it might lead to diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, or other issues.”

The No.1 problem? Cost.

Yet many Australians with private health cover are missing out on hundreds of dollars in dental rebates, new analysis from Compare Club has found.

Health insurance premiums for about 40 per cent of Australians rose again on 1 October by an average 2.9 per cent, which makes it even more important to ensure you’re reaping the benefits of all aspects of your cover.

Where loyalty doesn’t pay

The ‘glitch’ in the system relates to those who haven’t updated their policy in years.

The Compare Club analysis reveals that some funds offer a fixed amount of money back on dental treatment and that amount doesn’t rise with inflation, which has been running rampant. That means people who took out a policy with a set benefit amount are receiving substantially less back from their health fund than new customers.

In some cases, customers with the same health fund and with the same level of cover are getting up to a 50 per cent lower rebate when the policy is up to 10 years old and closed to new members.

One ‘grandfathered’ policy gives $60 back for a root canal compared with $105 for customers on a newer policy with the same insurer.

Compare Club head of research Kate Browne says many Australians are putting off or cancelling their dental appointments because of the cost-of-living crisis. Yet there are great savings to be had by checking your cover regularly.

“Many people are missing out on hundreds of dollars’ worth of savings by not reviewing their health insurance policy,” she said.

“It’s vital if you have health insurance that you review it regularly. It’s astonishing to see that people can be with the same provider yet older, loyal customers are getting half the value back because they are on old and out-of-date policies.

“Private health insurance, especially for dental and optical treatments which aren’t generally covered by Medicare, are vital for our health and wellbeing. Seeing a dentist isn’t optional so make sure you can get on the best value extras policy to take the sting out of the cost.

“Loyalty doesn’t pay and our research shows that even within the same health fund, new customers are receiving far better deals than long term and loyal customers.”

Finding the best policy for you

The experts at Compare Club offer the following tips for finding value-for-money health insurance policies. And they caution you to look beyond price.

  1. Look for extras cover that is percentage-based rather than based on a dollar figure. Percentage-based cover means you don’t lose value as inflation and as the cost of these treatments rises; the amount you get back will rise too. Funds such as NIB, AHM and Bupa all offer covers with percentages back – either with their own providers or in some cases with any provider, so it’s worthwhile asking about those options.
  2. Extras are a great area to make savings. Getting higher annual limits or more back from a trip to the dentist or physio, or being able to claim back more on glasses and contact lenses could put more back in your pocket, even if your premium goes up by a few dollars.
  3. Be ruthless and Marie Kondo your cover. If you’re paying for an item you’ll never use, such as Gold cover that includes pregnancy, or excellent benefits back on remedial massages, look to see if you can ‘trade down’ to a cheaper policy that still covers everything you need. You also won’t have to serve waiting periods.

Were you aware that some policies offer only a fixed amount for dental cover? Are you diligent about visiting the dentist on a regular basis? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also read: How much does a trip to the dentist cost?

Disclaimer: YourLifeChoices is owned by Compare Club

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