Those interested in HealthShares may wonder whether any similar programs exist for dental care. After extensive research, it appears that cost sharing for dental needs is not readily available. Only one dental cost sharing program currently exists, along with several discount memberships. These options may be suitable for certain individuals, depending on personal needs, circumstances, and budget.
The sole dental cost sharing program is Altrua’s SmileShare. This program has the same membership requirements as Altrua (requiring Christian worship as well as some specific beliefs), and, it has some limitations worth considering.
The most affordable option costs $29 per month, is designed for two people, and has an annual limit of $500 per member. The most comprehensive membership plan costs $58 per month. This includes more options for sharing, such as major restorative work and orthodontics, but it has an annual limit of $2,000 per member.
This limited dental sharing program may not be worth the hassle or expense. Dental insurance is generally much easier to enroll in—and less expensive. Depending on the location, an individual’s cost for dental insurance may be less than $20 per month and, in some cases, has no annual limit.
For those living in areas with an extremely high cost of living, SmileShare may potentially save members money and enable access to basic or necessary care. But for most people, this program may not be useful.
Discount memberships from HealthShares
It is worth noting that many HealthShares will share tooth-related care if an injury or accident damages a previously healthy tooth. For example, expenses related to fixing broken teeth after falls, car accidents, and so on are likely shareable. But this only applies to restorative care for damage in those circumstances. HealthShares do not share costs for cleanings, cavities, or routine X-rays. Nevertheless, some HealthShares may offer memberships to discount dental clubs that provide access to more affordable dental care options (similar to Costco; members pay an annual fee in exchange for discounted services).
At least two HealthShares use the Careington savings program. The first, Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM), has several membership options through Careington, including dental/vision, telemedicine services, and a Total Health membership (which includes dental, vision, telemedicine, plus discounts on hearing aids, chiropractic services, and lab work). CHM’s discount program has more reasonable pricing than Altrua’s SmileShare, with the most comprehensive plan only costing $20 per month. The membership fee provides access to discounts, and members will pay for the discounted rate.
The second HealthShare offering dental discounts through Careington is Medi-Share. They provide a thorough explanation of the numbers in their sample savings chart: “Regular Cost is based on the average 80th percentile usual and customary rates as detailed in the 2021 Fair Health Report for the Los Angeles, Orlando, Chicago & NYC metropolitan statistical area(s).” This membership appears to already be included with Medi-Share membership. If that’s the case, and Medi-Share members don’t need to pay extra, the program is certainly worth trying out–even for members who already have dental insurance.
How does a discount dental program work?
HealthShare guide reviewed dozens of other blogs, experiences, and program information to get an idea of how well these memberships work. The most common discounts range between 10-20%, but instances of people claiming to have saved 50-60% on care were also found. Discount dental memberships will be compared to dental insurance later.
Some offices (although not all) accept discount memberships like this as well as dental insurance. At the very least, it might be possible to compare price options and choose the route that saves you most.
Discount memberships vs. dental insurance
The question of whether dental discounts are good or not depends on individual circumstances. Some people may find excellent dental insurance with no annual limits (or high ones) and reasonable monthly pricing. However, even excellent insurance often doesn’t cover extras like cosmetic or orthodontic work. For those interested in teeth whitening or adult braces, joining a discount program could be worthwhile, as the savings program can be used for services not covered by insurance.
Individuals who rarely, or never, have cavities and only need standard cleanings and checkups may also benefit from discount programs. The decision depends on the cost and quality of dental care available in a specific area, as well as the cost and quality of available dental insurance. If the dental insurance plans have high monthly costs, low annual maximums, and limited coverage, a discount membership could be a better option. Thorough research into local costs is advised before deciding.
Some dental offices offer their own discount programs. In this scenario, there may be no need to join a program like those offered by Careington. Providers receive payment much faster through self-pay patients, so dentists may see offering such programs as in their best interest.