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Posts tagged with: dental insurance

The Year of Becoming an Adult: September Update

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In October of last year I wrote about some of the financial goals we have for the year 2015. I called it “The Year of Becoming an Adult” as a way to acknowledge that, at the ages of 31 and 32, we really should have had these tasks taken care of long ago! It was long past time and 2015 was our year to tackle these important adult milestones.

There were four things, specifically, that I had mentioned. Time for a little status update on each of them:

  1. First, we’re going to make a will. This is finally done! I actually made the wills on my birthday (December 31st), but it took us MONTHS to get them notarized! In our state we had to have two witnesses and we had a hard time getting people to be our witness. We asked bank employees (nope), we asked friends (yes, but had a hard time finding a time that worked for 2 separate friends at the same time), and finally we got it done when hubs’ mom and grandma came to visit a couple months ago. Kind of ridiculous that it required two people coming to visit us who could serve as our witnesses, but the bottom line is this task is finally completed and behind us.
  2. Second, husband will get life insurance. Quick recap for newer readers – hubs had a mystery illness at the end of 2013. In summer of 2014 I got life insurance and tried to get him some, but he was rejected due to the mystery illness (doctors never found out exactly what was wrong with him). He was advised to wait a year and try again. So initially we were going to reapply at the beginning of this summer. But hubs has been on a hard-core mission to lose weight and wanted to wait until his weight-loss is complete so he can try to get better prices on life insurance. He started his weight-loss mission on June 1st and in the 3 ½ months since then he’s lost a total of FIFTY POUNDS!!! Yes! It’s incredible! Like watching an episode of extreme weight loss in front of my eyes! He wants to lose another 20 lbs. but I think we’ll probably initiate the life insurance process early next month (October). I remember from last time around that it was a couple-month process – not a quick overnight thing like I had expected. So this should still be done by the end of the year, but hasn’t been handled yet.
  3. Third, we’re going to open retirement accounts. Success! In April (before tax day), we opened up our first Roth IRA for 2014. It was a meager contribution ($1,000), but it was a start. For most months this year we’ve been setting aside $100 to be added to the Roth. But then when I started my full-time job in mid-July things really kicked it up a gear. I’m now contributing 10% of my full-time job income to a retirement account, which is being matched up to 7% from my employer. In addition to that, I’ve opened up a FSA (flexible spending account) for dependent care. I contribute $500/paycheck of pre-tax money so I can pay for the girls’ care with pre-tax dollars. I actually haven’t made a withdrawal from the account yet (and I need to!), so I need to figure out how to do that. But the point is that we’re now contributing to various retirement accounts (mostly through my employer’s 401a but still a little in a Roth), as well as taking advantage of a tax-advantaged FSA.
  4. Finally, we’re going to open college savings accounts for our girls. This one still hasn’t happened yet. Starting in June (the month of their birth), we’ve been setting aside $25/month with the intention of opening up a college savings account. Honestly, I’ve been so overwhelmed with work and stuff happening with my Dad that I haven’t been able to investigate into this further. Matt made it sound like it was super easy-peasy when he opened up an account for his niece, so I just need to bite the bullet and do it. In the meantime, the money has been earmarked for this purpose (I categorize it using YNAB’s budgeting system), so it’s available when I finally do get around to actually opening an account. I’ll go ahead and put this on my To Do List for the beginning of October, too. So I’ll call this a half-success since we’ve actively started saving the money but haven’t actually funneled it into an appropriate account yet. The intention is there, so now it’s just a matter of the follow-through!

Those were the main things I had discussed in my original Year of Becoming an Adult post, but I’m also happy to announce that hubs is finally getting a handle on his dental issues, too (never mind that it took an all out emergency to make that happen). Actually, TODAY is the day he’s getting his first quadrant of work done! He’d gone to the dentist right after the emergency but had to be put on antibiotics before any actual work could be done so today is the D-Day (D as in Dental work). We’re hoping to knock out one other quadrant before the new year (to max out our dental insurance benefits), but that probably won’t be scheduled until late November or December sometime to allow us a couple months to try to save up some more money. Remember – this round of dental work cost $665. I’m not sure what the next quadrant will cost but I’m assuming it will be pretty comparable. Allowing for a couple months’ buffer to restock our dental savings account is really helpful for us.

So there you have it!

#1 = check!

#2 = in progress

#3 = check!

#4 = in progress

BONUS (dental work) = in progress

 

I’d love to report more successes/check-marks but with the cards life has dealt us this year I’m pleased with our progress. When life gets crazy, baby steps is all we can ask for. As long as we’re moving forward we’re moving in the right direction! : )

I’ll be sure to update in a few months when I can hopefully report that ALL of these items have been checked off the “Year of Becoming an Adult” list!


Dental Emergency: Blessing in Disguise???

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If you’re a long-term reader, I’ve discussed the issue of dental work ad nauseum (1, 2, 3, 4 times where I’ve dedicated an entire post to the topic; probably several more times where I’ve mentioned it in reference to monthly budgeting). Long story short, hubs’ has a lot of dental issues. A lot! I’ve now been blogging here 18 months and I think he’s had 2 or 3 emergency root canals during that time. He has lots of other dental needs, too, but he’s got some dental anxiety issues (not to mention it’s -ahem- challenging to get him to take a day off to go to the dentist. Gotta love him!). So he’s mostly been operating on an emergency dental situation basis. Very reactive instead of proactive.

Yes, this is a terrible way of handling things.

Yes, it’s more expensive this way.

Yes, dental health is extremely important and can influence health in other ways, too.

He knows all this, but is a grown man and cannot be forced into something against his will. I know, I’ve tried. ; )

Anywho….we’ve got our latest dental emergency, folks!

A few nights ago at dinner hubs bit into something; his eyes got wide and his face grew pale. My first guess was that a crown had fallen out (he’s had that happen before).

Nope.

His tooth fell out. But not his whole tooth. The majority-but not all-of a tooth. A back molar he’d had a root canal and crown put on about 4 years ago. The one that was repaired in Mexico (I’ve mentioned it here). So there’s no way he can go back and make the dentist fix it. No warranties or anything like that.

Now, while this is enough to ruin anyone’s day, I am choosing to look at this as a blessing in disguise. I’ve had a terrible time trying to get hubby back to the dentist. This little issue (ahem – having a tooth fall out!!!) has forced him back to the dentist. Only, now we’ve got dental insurance (YAYAYAYAYAY for the new job!) Hubs has already gone to a new in-network dentist and had x-rays done (something he’s been opposed to in the past) and had a plan drawn up for how to handle his dental issues. The dentist will work in quadrants in his mouth and we’ve already pre-paid for his first quadrant (which will include filling 2 cavities, 2 extractions – one for this tooth and one for a wisdom tooth he’d never had removed, and completing a bone graft for a future tooth implant). Total cost out of pocket is $665. For a little comparison, when I paid to get a filling last year (before insurance), I paid $171. Through insurance, our cost for a filling is only $26 per tooth! Wahoo! What a savings!

Our dental insurance does have an annual per-person maximum that they’ll cover so we’re trying to be strategic about things. But, luckily, they go by calendar year (not actual year; like, July through July since that’s when we got the insurance). So we’ll likely max out their coverage on hubs by December and then be able to start over again in 2016.

Ultimately, this is going to cost us a lot of money. Thousands of dollars. BUT we’ll FINALLY be getting ahead of hubs’ dental problems. Instead of always operating on a reactionary basis (aka:  getting a root canal once a cavity has gone untreated for so long that the whole thing is rotting away), we’ll be able to start rectifying hubs’ many dental issues and getting on top of them before they turn into major catastrophic dental emergencies!

And, fortunately, we had $700 in our dental/health/vision savings account. I just wrote a check for $665 to pre-pay this first quadrant of work. But at least it was money we already had earmarked specifically for this purpose (so it does NOT impact this month’s budget). But instead of saving only a hundred bucks a month or so toward dental, we’ll certainly need to increase those savings on the short-term. Hopefully this means much better oral and overall health on the long-term!

Do you have a partner whose stubborn about going to the dentist? What have you done to help ease their anxiety?


A Second Opinion Can Change Everything!

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For any new readers out there (hi!!!) this is now my third or fourth post about dentistry/dental health in just a couple months. Our family has been plagued with dental issues as of late (see dental-related posts here, here, and here).

To be fair, husband’s issues were not new nor were they surprises. But mine were definitively unexpected….

Remember when I went to the dentist a couple months ago?

Well the x-rays turned up a “fun” little surprise. My front tooth is dead. Yep. Apparently at some point (could have been years ago as a child) I must have been hit in the mouth hard enough to kill the root in my front tooth.

When I went to the dentist he said the gums look good (no disease or abscess), but the tooth would continue to darken over time (eventually turning black if nothing was done) and would need to be replaced. His suggestion? A porcelain veneer. But, of course, I don’t want to do my one front tooth by itself – that would just look silly and out of place. I would need to do at least the front two, though it would be better if I just did the front four or six.

No worries!, said the dentist.

We’ll get you a quote printed right up! We’ll even give you a discount! *smiles*

Well that sounded downright ridiculous. Everything I googled said that a dead tooth required a root canal (since there’s often infection) and a crown. NOTHING even so much as MENTIONED a porcelain veneer.

I got on a little facebook Moms group in my neighborhood and asked for dentist suggestions. Someone recommended a little family-owned and operated dentists’ office within walking distance of my home (I’ve walked by it to go to the park many times and never even noticed it!)

WOW – what a difference a second opinion makes!

This dentist said it was perfectly fine to simply take the “wait and see” approach. Since there’s no sign of infection an immediate root canal is not necessary. Of course, should infection occur in the future I would know it by a number of signs (pain, sensitivity), and would need to have a root canal at that point. But infection is not imminent. It could never happen! So I just need to be mindful of potential signs of infection and we will have a front tooth x-ray done every couple years to make sure everything still looks good. Easy-breezy!

Also recall that since my last dental appointment I also chipped my back tooth. The dentist said it’s a relatively small chip but does need to be filled in to prevent decay from setting in (I’d googled this in advance and this is precisely what Dr. Google had recommended, too).

I scheduled an appointment to have a filling done next week. The cost is $190, but they will give me a 10% discount (= $171). The quote from Nogales, Mexcio my husband had received had put fillings at $100 each, so I think $171 is a fair quote. What’s more? They gave me the day’s appointment for free! Even though they’d had to re-do some of the x-rays (the old office had only sent over the Panoramic photo), and the dentist gave me a full examination, they said today would be considered a “consult” and would be no cost!!! I was anticipating spending at least $100!

So I think I’ve found our new family dentist!!!

On my last dental post I’d asked if we should consider getting actual dental insurance. I hate it because its very expensive and there’s a long “wait period” for many of the services (basically everything my husband needs, for instance, would have to be a 9 month-1 year wait). I understand why they do this, but it’s still annoying!

Booo! Buy dental insurance or no?

I’m leaning toward putting it off until after the car is paid in full. I just really, really want that car debt gone and want to avoid taking on additional monthly payments until after it’s been eliminated. What do you all think?


Dental Hygeine

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Surprise, surprise. When you play with fire you get burned. And, we got ourselves a little “ouchie” (as my girls would call it) this month.

Remember how I discussed my husband’s dental issues awhile back and started setting aside additional money for imminent dental needs (I “upped” our dental/vision monthly savings from $50/month to $125/month, starting last month)? Well I suppose we ‘played with fire’ by waiting too long and guess what happened while we were in Utah? Husband started having some extraordinarily painful tooth problems.

He self-medicated with Orajel and over-the-counter pain meds. He toughed it out over the weekend but called a local dentist first thing on Monday morning and got an appointment for that very afternoon. So on Monday of this week, he ended up having a root canal. Yuuuup. So much for our plan to go to Mexico and have it done for half price.

In all, the damage will set us back nearly $2,000. He did purchase a dental discount plan, and that was the discounted rate. I don’t have exact numbers in front of me, but I think the root canal portion was about $800 and the porcelain crown is another $800-$900?? I need to double-check my numbers, but that’s a ballpark figure.

I checked my CapitalOne360 savings account and our dental/vision savings only has a grand total of $225 in it. Plus, I have my vision appointment coming up in September and will need to get new lenses, so I’m going to need most of that money myself.

Since I don’t have money to cover the root canal expense anywhere in our usual budget and we don’t want to pull it out of savings, we’re going to take a little hit on our income this month. Basically, husband is paying for it out-of-pocket with funds that otherwise would have come to me for budgeting/allocation. So the money is being spent before it was ever officially classified as “income.” Does this make sense? Basically, our income is going to look a little artificially deflated this month. Fortunately, I still have a good sized paycheck coming for my summer teaching (and, remember, no check next month due to the schedule of payment). Hopefully my check will help balance things out a little.

I digress. Back to the main issue regarding dental care.

Husband still has a LOT of other work to be done. This root canal only takes care of his one most pressing issue. So we still have an opportunity to try to save some money on the rest of it. I still vote for him taking a day trip to Mexico to have some work done (the problem with that is it has to be scheduled in advance, not same-day like it was needed this time). I also liked the reader suggestion to try to haggle with the dentists. Give them the prices we have from the Mexico dentists and see if they can match the prices, or at least reduce them. But there’s one other potential avenue I’m crossing my fingers about….

Husband recently went and did a bid for a potential customer who turns out to be…a dentist!!! It is exceptionally rare that husband is able to barter work because he does wood flooring and his labor for jobs is generally in the thousands. Because of the high price point, its tough to barter for hair cuts, car washes, lawn care, or whatever else because the price of those items is so much lower that there’s a big risk that we wouldn’t recuperate the labor costs from my husband’s work if someone flakes out or disappears. BUT – his dental necessities are also in the thousands, so this would be a beautiful trade (both parties still paying for “parts”, but getting the labor for free).

Apparently husband was directed to give his bid to the dentist’s secretary (why would a dental secretary handle the dentists’ home flooring bid? I have no idea), but I have urged husband to reach out to Dr. Dentist directly and try to negotiate a trade. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed!!!!!

Have you ever had a dental emergency? How much did it cost you? When I was in High School I chipped my front tooth and still remember it cost $1000 to fix (my Mom paid for it at the time). I also distinctly remember the dentist saying the “fix” (composite material that was bonded to my tooth to fill in the chipped spot), was only designed to last about 7 years. It’s been 12. So there’s that.

Update:  Ugh – crap! I wrote this post Thursday evening and Friday morning guess what happened….I have a tooth that chipped! Did I jinx myself or what??? Luckily its not my front tooth, its a back molar. It’s a relatively minor chip (no pain or sensitivity), but everything I have googled says I still need to get into a dentist ASAP, otherwise decay can set in. What the heck? We can’t catch a break over here with our dental health! Time to invest in dental insurance??? *sigh* : (


Ways to get by while on unemployment…

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My budget was already threadbare but living with 50% less salary and on unemployment benefits has forced us to find ways to somehow reduce more.

First, we cut our dental and vision insurance. This is something that can easily be re-instated but the $25 a month can help me now.

Second, I cancelled all my appointments health related or otherwise. None of my appointments were an emergency and I requested that my doctor renew my prescriptions without the annual check-up since the last 6 years have been clear of any problems. These appointments and tests run in the neighborhood of $500.

Third, I called my cable company to cancel our cable, reduce our internet speed, and reduce our phone service. I explained our situation and was surprised when they offered reduced internet costs, reduced phone costs, and added free services and free channels for a 12 month period. I would tell you how much I’m paying – but I’m afraid they’ll figure out they made a huge mistake and ‘correct’ the discount… or fire the guy who gave it to me. I would have cut out the internet and phone entirely but my husband needs internet for school purposes and job searching late at night when he gets home (free internet at the library is closed) and I’m uncomfortable without a home phone for emergencies.

Fourth, I contacted my student loan company for a deferment.

Fifth, my husband and I contacted friends and family and let them know we’d be available for odd jobs. Since unemployment doesn’t start for nearly a month after a job loss, my husband has done everything from pulling weeds to insulating walls. I have been helping a company with paperwork at night after work. We use this money for groceries and for the important bills like electric and water. At no time should you feel you are ‘too good’ for any type of job.

Sixth, we cut off all our subscriptions and memberships. If you’re like us, you may not even remember you have some of them since they are automatically billed to your credit card and you may not look at each item on your online statement. Some examples: gym memberships, club memberships, magazine and newspaper subscriptions (some automatically renew unless you cancel). Savings – $50 a month.

Seventh, we’ve been using more public transportation. It takes twice as long to get somewhere, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s far from fun, but it saves $50-$75 a month.

It’s not a lot, but each item buys us a little more time.


Dental Debt and What I Want

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Some people have good teeth.

Some people have bad teeth.

And even still, some people have teeth that make Steve Buscemi look like a Colegate smile model.

I’m in the last category.

Oh, you can’t tell to look at me. I have a beautiful smile – but I’ve spent more on my teeth than most people spend on their first home.

Either:

A) My dentist was an elephant poacher in her previous life and she can’t rid herself of the desire to create enough pure ivory piano keys out of my teeth to furnish a grand piano… or two.

Or

B) My tooth enamel is as effective at preventing cavities as a double fudge cake is to weight loss.

I brush, I floss, and I rinse twice daily. I avoid soda and sugar. BUT… according to my dentist, some people are destined to have bad teeth.

And I am destined to pay her dental school loans.

Obviously my dental woes affect my ability to pay off debt. I recently finished paying off a $1,500 dental loan, but there is always more work to be done.

I also recently interviewed for a job with one of the most inclusive dental plans I’ve ever seen.

They reviewed the information with me at the end of the interview and I’m hoping they didn’t notice I had stars, exclamation points, and highlighted sections around the ‘Dental Benefits’ section.

Ahh. To be free of dental debt – past and future – would help a lot.