Managing Debt

Can’t Pay Your Doctor? Here Are 4 Options

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Can't Pay Your Doctor? Here Are 4 OptionsI pride myself on being young and healthy. This is exactly the attitude I had just before the crown on my tooth cracked after I bit into an apple. I didn’t immediately go to the dentist to get it fixed because I didn’t have dental insurance or cash on hand to cover the cost. As the pain in my mouth got greater, however, I found myself exploring various options. I also wanted to prevent any long-term damage to my teeth, which would cost even more money in the long run. Here are a few options that I seriously considered, along with the upside and downside of each. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, this advice could be useful.

Getting Insurance

My first thought was to enroll in an affordable dental insurance plan with a carrier that included my dentist in their network.

Upside: I would not have to pay a large lump sum upfront. Instead, I would pay monthly premiums to the insurance company in return for ongoing coverage.

Downside: The time that I would have to wait to fix my crown was long. All of the dental plans that I researched would not cover major restorative work right away; most plans make you wait six months to a year before they will cover fixes, like crowns.

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Free Credit Check & MonitoringCharging It to My Credit Card

I already had a dentist provider that I trusted. Therefore, I thought about putting the $1,200 cost on my credit card.

Upside: I could get the tooth fixed immediately and with a provider that I was already very comfortable with.

Downside: My credit card balance would grow even more. I already had a healthy balance on my card and I didn’t want to overextend myself; I knew that I could not afford to pay off the balance anytime soon.

Financing It Through Alternative Dental Programs

My current dental provider informed me that there are dental financing programs, like CareCredit and Brighter.com, that help those without insurance set up a payment plan.

Upside: I could spread out the payment of the dental services over time with a lower interest rate than my credit card.

Downside: Unfamiliarity. I was immediately skeptical of these programs and I wasn’t sure if they were trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

[Related Article: Give Your Health Records a Checkup]

Seeking an Alternate Provider

In Illinois, where I live, there are alternative care programs such as Access Community Health Network that offers outstanding primary and preventive care to uninsured and underinsured individuals. Check your state to see if they have a similar program.

Upside: The out-of-pocket cash cost of fixing the dental problem is a lot lower than a private provider.

Downside: Finding a dentist that is available and that I have a high level of comfort with was harder than expected.

After doing my research, I ended up financing the cost of my broken crown through an alternative program. Based on my credit profile, they offered me an opportunity to pay back the $1,200 over six months at 0 percent interest. Now, if I do not pay back the total amount in full, I will have to pay 22 percent interest on the total amount of the $1,200. Ultimately, I went with this option because it fit with my goals of quickly fixing my crown without paying a lump sum of money at once.

Make sure you consider the upsides and downsides of your options, and pursue what is right for you based on your goals and your situation.

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Image: iStockphoto

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