Inexpensive and convenient, local dentists can provide services not offered on bases in South Korea
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Patients referred to off-post South Korean dental clinics give high marks for service and say costs are markedly cheaper than dental care in the United States, said the 18th Medical Command dental consultant.
Patient surveys found state- of-the-art dental clinics approved by the military meet or exceed standards for proper communication with dentists, cleanliness, patient satisfaction and treatment, Col. Calvin Early told participants at an 18th MEDCOM Community Health Forum on Friday.
Early showed the results of 16 surveys distributed to patients who went off post.
Some family members and military personnel are referred to off-post clinics because the 618th Dental Company does not have enough resources to treat them, Early said.
Military officials visited off- post dental clinics and generated an approved list for patients, Early said. Brochures and directions are available at the dental clinic, he said.
Dental care in South Korea is 35 percent to 50 percent cheaper than the United States, officials said. Tricare’s Dental Program co-payment for dental work often is cheaper or the same as in the United States.
The co-pay — the servicemember’s out-of-pocket cost — differs depending on soldiers’ rank and whether they’re stationed in the United States.
In most cases, officials said, Tricare’s dental program picks up 100 percent of the cost of procedures for which stateside insurance would cover only 50 percent to 80 percent. For other procedures, they said, the co-pay is the same.
Early gave the example of getting a crown. The co-pay is the same in South Korea and the United States, he said. But the procedure that costs from $600 to $800 in the States costs just $300 to $400 in South Korea, he said.
“You pay about half what you would in the United States,” Early said.
The Tricare Dental Plan does not cover all procedures, such as teeth whitening, Early said. To have insurance cover off-post dental work, servicemembers must get prior dental clinic approval with a non-availability referral form, or NARF, he said.
Tricare’s dental program administrator will not reimburse claims not authorized by a NARF or performed by an approved provider, Early said. The dental unit also will review claims forms for accuracy and completeness before they are submitted to Tricare, to ensure they aren’t delayed, he said. The patient pays the provider first, then usually is reimbursed within a month after the insurance paperwork is submitted, he said.
At the health forum, Early showed about a dozen photographs of military-approved off- post dentists. Many of the South Korean dentists have studied in the United States and all clinics have English-speaking staffs, Early said.
And one, he said, is “somewhat nicer than the inside of our clinic”: Its patient chair faces a large, square window with a serene view of a tree.