Cost-Conscious Care: How HMO Dental Plans Save Money

How HMO Dental Plans save money. Providing high-value, cost-conscious care is crucial to eliminating wasteful spending and reducing overuse of medical tests or treatments that don’t improve patient health. 

Providing high-value, cost-conscious care is crucial to eliminating wasteful spending and reducing overuse of medical tests or treatments that don’t improve patient health. 

Several dental plans are available through the Marketplace: DHMOs, PPOs, indemnity, and discount plans. Depending on your needs, one type of plan may be better for you.

What Is an HMO?

An HMO is a health maintenance organization that provides subscribers care in return for a prepaid fee. HMOs contract with healthcare providers to offer primary care, lab work, and X-rays. These contracts allow an HMO to keep its monthly or annual premium costs lower than other types of health insurance.

Generally, an HMO will only cover in-network care. This means a subscriber must choose a primary care physician (PCP) within its network. The PCP will then provide the necessary referrals to other specialists.

Some HMOs have more restrictive networks, while others require that you receive a referral from your PCP before seeing an out-of-network doctor. Additionally, an HMO can also only reimburse for in-network laboratory work.

Depending on your dental needs and budget, you can find an HMO that will suit your needs.

In addition, dental insurance HMO plans in California provide coverage options within specific provider networks, offering accessible and cost-effective dental care for individuals and families.  HMOs typically have more established provider networks and are less expensive than PPO dental plans, so they may be the best option if you want to keep your monthly or annual premium costs low or if your dentist of choice is already in the plan’s network. However, if you have dental problems and want more freedom to choose your dentist or like the idea of having the ability to file a claim, you might be better off with a PPO or an indemnity dental plan.


A Preferred provider organization (PPO) plan is a type of dental insurance that typically offers lower-cost care by negotiating with dentists to accept discounted fees for specific procedures. State insurance departments regulate the company that sells the plan. The negotiated prices are called “usual and customary” charges.

These plans operate similarly to their medical HMO cousins. They have a limited network, and you must choose a primary care dentist who will refer you for specialist treatment if needed. You can switch to another primary dentist if you don’t like the first one, but you must stay in the network for coverage.

The most significant difference between an HMO and a PPO is that with an indemnity plan, you can go to any dentist and have coverage for non-preventive services as long as they don’t charge more than the insurer’s contracted price. Depending on the policy, you will have to pay a deductible and may face a waiting period before getting certain types of non-preventive work.

The best choice depends on your specific needs and your comfort level with choosing a primary dental care provider. If you value having a more excellent choice of dentists, a PPO is probably your best option. But if you want the convenience of selecting only one dentist, an HMO might also work for you.

Indemnity Plans

The most common types of dental insurance in California are PPO plans and dental indemnity plans. Both offer different kinds of cost savings to individuals and families. PPO dental plans prioritize affordability, requiring you to choose a provider from their network and coordinate care through them — which saves you money on the cost of services. On the other hand, dental indemnity plans allow you to visit any dentist and give you a percentage of what the program considers the “usual and customary” fee for a service. State insurance departments regulate these plans.

PPOs and indemnity plans require you to pay a monthly premium and usually have deductibles, annual benefit maximums, and waiting periods for non-preventive services. However, a third type of plan, direct reimbursement plans, may also help you reduce costs for dental care.

With a direct reimbursement plan, you pay for your services upfront and then submit receipts to the insurance company or plan administrator to be reimbursed. This can save you both time and money in the long run, but it’s essential to understand what’s covered vs. not covered by these plans. Unlike traditional dental insurance, which typically has an annual enrollment period, private dental plans (as opposed to those offered by employers) can be purchased at any point during the year.

Discount Plans

When comparing dental plans, consider the types of care you need and what kinds of restrictions or costs might be associated with them. Some programs have annual deductibles and limits on the coverage you can receive. Others have a limited choice of dentists who will provide care and require that you get a referral from your primary care provider to see a specialist for certain types of treatment.

DHMO plans, also known as dental HMOs, operate similarly to medical HMOs and are ideal for those who want affordable dental insurance and a predictable cost structure. These plans are primarily paid on a capitation basis to contracted networks of dentists, and the plan enrollees must use network providers for the most coverage. However, a point-of-service provision can allow for selecting a non-network provider, but only at reduced benefits.

PPO dental plans, also called preferred provider organizations (PPOs or DPPOs), are popular and offer the flexibility of using out-of-network providers if you choose to do so. These plans typically cover more services and have a more comprehensive network of dentists than DHMO or indemnity dental plans. However, they have higher monthly or annual premiums than dental DHMO or indemnity plans. Dental discount plans are annual membership programs that reduce the price of dental care by offering pre-negotiated discounts at participating dentists.

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