As time passes, it seems more and more likely that the hotly contested Affordable Care Act will in fact be put in to action across America in 2014. Commonly called ‘Obamacare,’ the Affordable Care Act aims to provide more affordable health insurance and care to those who previously could not afford it or did not qualify. But what does the ACA mean for dental care?
Currently, it’s estimated that around half of American adults do not have dental insurance. Cost is the major prohibitive factor for most; those who live in rural areas also may not have easy access to an oral care professional.
What’s going to change:
Under the ACA, insurance companies will be required to provide dental care to children; it is estimated that around 8 million previously uninsured children will benefit from additional dental care. This act will also implement programs aiming to educate the general public about proper preventative care and the importance of regular dental checkups and cleanings.
The Affordable Care Act will also focus more funds on providing care to rural or sparsely populated areas, where people are less likely to seek regular checkups due to difficulty in finding a dentist within a reasonable area.
What about coverage for adults?
For adults ineligible for Medicaid without dental coverage, not a lot will change. If you already have some kind of dental insurance, don’t drop it in anticipation of the ACA- while dental care will be required for children, insurers will not be obligated to cover adults. However, individual states will have the ability to provide certain benefits through Medicaid; depending on the state in question, an individual covered under Medicaid may receive no dental coverage, limited to extensive coverage, or emergency dental services only.
Somewhat paradoxically, those who enroll their children in insurance plans provided by their employers may have to pay up to 57% more each month to provide their children with dental care; research by the National Association of Dental Plans suggests many adults will opt to drop their own coverage in order to provide for their children.
Organizations like the ADA, the American Dental Association, are very concerned about the lack of dental care, especially since the medical community is becoming more and more aware of how strongly oral health impacts the rest of the body. Only around 5% of currently uninsured adults are expected to receive dental benefits related to the ACA, while it’s probable that many people will continue to seek ER care for dental issues that could have been prevented with regular dentist visits.