A Personal Story: Benefits Chipping Away – Sasha, Hartford

Sasha, who lives in Hartford, Vermont, has a cafeteria plan for benefits at her work, and her dental insurance option is twice the cost it was just eight years ago. She used to pay for dental insurance, but since the price has doubled (it’s now $50-$60 a month) she finally decided to drop it. She deposited some of the money into a health savings account to help pay for any work she might need done. “As benefits have been chipped away and chipped away, it’s been dental insurance that has taken the biggest hit.”

Eight or nine years ago, when Sasha still had dental insurance, she chipped one of her front teeth, and got it fixed with a temporary bond. Unfortunately, this year she woke up one morning and the bond had broken. “I didn’t plan for it, and because it’s my front tooth I really had to have it fixed.” She paid for the work by putting $350 on a credit card. But what Sasha subsequently learned was that she had a number of other cracks in the tooth, so now she needs something more expensive done: “The next time it’s likely to break a much bigger break, and I’m going to have to have a completely different kind of repair at that point.” It will cost $1,200-$1,300 to get a more permanent fix, but she can’t afford that now: “The only strategy I have to pay for a bill like that is to just start saving in really small increments every month.” The new temporary bond could last two months or it could last eight or nine years, “but all I can do is just put away a little bit of money (each month) because it’s just too expensive to have dental insurance.””

Sasha could choose to enroll in her workplace’s dental plan, but she says you have to be enrolled for a year before they will cover the procedure. Then they will only cover 50%. Financially, it makes more sense for her to start saving now and then pay out of pocket. “Because I have strong teeth, this is unlikely to happen again. But I really feel for people who aren’t lucky…This recession has really put a lot of us in a really tough spot with benefits.”

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