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Is Dental Coverage Included in Obama's Health Care Bill?

By Susan Braden

How will President Obama’s healthcare reform affect dental coverage?In the turbulence that has surrounded passage of the healthcare reform bill early in 2010, most Americans are unable to comprehend exactly how the changes will affect them personally. While certain aspects such as pain management for seniors receive a great deal of attention, most of the bill remains veiled in political double-speak.Read on to learn the truth about how healthcare reform will and will not impact American dental health.

The short answer is that in general Obamacare does not include dental work for adults in it’s coverage plan. It does provide dental coverage for children, however. Because dental work is uncovered and so costly, try using a discount dental plan to lower the rate.

Specific Offerings of Obamacare

  • Expands Medicaid coverage, which will receive more money from the federal government in every state. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) extends for five years through the legislation, and it addresses dentist and specialist payments through those programs. This helps make affordable care more accessible.
  • Supports state initiatives to provide awareness and prevention programs through scientific data collection and leadership development.
  • Supports public oral care centers to raise awareness for affordable school-and-community-based programs. A commission will study workforce capacity in the oral healthcare field.
  • Provides grants for new dentists to advance their study. Dentists will have the opportunity to expand their own education as well as educate future oral healthcare providers serving disadvantaged populations and rural areas.
  • Includes a provision to track and monitor the health of America’s teeth, especially among pregnant women, through federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control intends to better learn how to raise public awareness.
  • Provides initiatives for public schools in all 50 states, including research grants and sealant programs, in order to prevent and manage tooth decay in young children.
  • Expands dental coverage for young children in general to provide wider access to oral health and affordable care.

Who Will Benefit Most from Healthcare Reform?

Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease in this country, particularly among low income kids. It may be for this reason that the legislators who crafted healthcare reform put the needs of children first. Consequently, young Americans will see many positive benefits from the new law. According to the Delta Dental Plan Association, starting in 2014, most children without dental coverage will be picked up either through private or public options.

First and foremost, Medicaid coverage will be expanded, and along with it the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In addition, grants will be available in all 50 states to encourage faculties to study the prevention of tooth decay in children, as well as to provide decay-preventing sealants for low income youngsters. Finally, the youngest segment of our population will benefit from additional funding for school-based health center facilities.

How Does Healthcare Reform Affect Adult Oral Health?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 45 million adult Americans currently do not have dental insurance. Unfortunately, the legislation passed in 2010 to make it easier for all Americans to obtain coverage did little to consider the dental needs of people over 21. According to Reuters, Americans must purchase health insurance by 2014 in order to avoid being fined. However, this requirement does not extend to specific vision or dental coverage.

As a result, it is feared that millions of the most vulnerable adult patients will continue to be unable to access the preventative care and more complex procedures they need in order to promote their oral health. And since tooth decay and gum disease are increasingly being linked to major medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and even miscarriage, this gaping hole in coverage also means poor overall health and increasing medical costs for millions of people.

Can Discount Dental Plans Bridge the Gap?

When patients have to choose between putting food on the table and getting a cavity filled, the answer is clear. Because discount dental plans offer significant savings on a full range of basic and complex dental procedures, many of the most precariously balanced patients are spared from going into debt to pay for their dental work.

Here’s how discount dental plans work. Immediately upon joining, patients receive full access to the plan, with no complicated paperwork, no waiting periods, and no yearly maximums. Furthermore, these discount dental plans can be used in conjunction with any other policy a patient might possess. Although only one provider can be used for any given visit, a savvy patient can plan in advance which plan will cover which procedures, thereby leading to additional savings.

Is Healthcare Reform a Positive Step for American Dental Care?

As with most pieces of legislation that are passed, the 2010 healthcare reform law contains many flaws and remains incomplete. The American Dental Association has been quick to discern the glaring lack of help for adults, particularly when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid. However, if you are a child from a family with a low income, or if you are thinking of studying dentistry, there are provisions in the law that could be of great benefit to you.

Learn about Affordable Dental Plans

For the rest of us, alternatives such as discount dental plans can go a long way toward addressing the inadequacies of President Obama’s healthcare reform plan. Hopefully, the next few years will see continued work to refine and improve this historic piece of legislation.

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