It has come to my attention that many agencies including the Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs and numerous State governments are now offering a free federal employee dental plan. What is most interesting is these government-sponsored plans are not as elaborate or extensive as the employer-sponsored ones. In fact, they only cover basic services such as cleanings, fillings, crowns, extractions and surgeries. It’s pretty amazing that the federal government would spend money on such a paltry program given its own financial problems.
Well, I applaud the Obama administration for providing this assistance for our nation’s employees. However, I also believe the plan is too limited and doesn’t cover everything needed. For example, many employees are self-employed and make all kinds of claims for injuries that could not be sustained in the workplace. The employer must bear all expenses, even if the employee is self-employed.
There is a great deal of confusion regarding what type of dental care is covered. Are the workers themselves covered? If so, how much? How long do they have to go without any dental benefits?
To avoid confusion, let me lay out the differences between the employer-sponsored and the government-sponsored programs. Both cover basic preventive dental care and most employees are automatically enrolled in a Dental Benefits Plan (DBP). Under the DBP, the employer pays a portion of the cost. Employees pay a portion of the remaining cost. Either way, the employee contributes to their own annual dental fee.
The biggest difference between these two employee dental plans
The flexibility of the Dental Benefit Plan. Under the Feds, you don’t have a choice. They run the program and if they don’t want to participate, then you have no choice but to go with the plan provided by the agency. If you want to choose your own health plan, then you will probably have to wait for a notice period to be valid, usually 30 days.
Federal employees have a choice of having only “generics” of dental services covered. This means that the employee will get whatever the dentist of his choice offers. If he wants more, he can buy it on his own. However, he must declare this condition and wait for a thirty day period after termination of employment for the policy to become effective.
The other difference between the employer-sponsored and the government-sponsored employee dental plan is the extent of coverage. Under the Feds, the plan covers preventive care such as basic cleaning and x-rays. The other plans only cover major oral surgeries, teeth cleanings and fluoride treatments. The Feds also cover dental implants and dentures at the time of service. On the other hand, the other plans pay for only a few procedures, such as extraction, root canal and minor fillings.
For federal employees, dental coverage is provided at no extra cost. The cost of maintaining a dental plan depends on the number of employees and their dependents. However, dental insurance purchased through an employer is considered an affordable way to back up the benefits provided by a dental plan. If you are a federal employee or if you are a member of the military, you can benefit from the federal dental plan.
The only thing required is to ask for it
As for private companies, there is usually an additional premium for the dental plan. This might be a lot higher than what you will pay if you have the option to choose your own plan from a private company. Federal employees, however, do not have this option because they are required by law to purchase a government-sponsored dental plan. If they do not have one, they must purchase the COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) option.
An advantage of the COBRA option is that it allows the employee to lock in the plan at its current price. This ensures continuity within the plan. The disadvantage is that it will cost the employer more money since it will have to pay out more premiums to maintain the same policy. The government does offer an incentive to employers who offer dental coverage to their workers, though. The employers can deduct a portion of the premiums from their income taxes.
Federal Employee Dental Plan
One final consideration for federal employee dental plans is that they might not cover pre-existing conditions. If you or a family member already has a condition, you might be on the waiting list for a dental coverage plan. Contact your employer and ask about their dental insurance. Unless it is an emergency, getting the proper dental care in the present period is important for overall dental health.