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What will the future of dental health coverage look like if Obamacare is repealed and replaced? Academy Health, a nonprofit health service research organization, recently featured five panelists with expertise in health policy, economics, dentistry, and public health. The discussion was centered on two topics: 1) When Obamacare was created, why was dentistry for adults not included?; and 2) once Obamacare is repealed and replaced, what will be the status of dental coverage?
We must first look at what Obamacare does cover with regard to dentistry. Currently, it only addresses Pediatric oral health care for low-income children who do not have access to dental care. This would be very similar to dental care under Medicaid. According to John McDonough, DrPH, MPA, who was one of the many providers who helped create the ACA, the main reason that dentistry for adults was omitted under Obamacare was a “true lack of advocacy for adults.”
The dental safety net was expanded with the ACA for young adults whose parents had dental insurance, allowing them to remain on the parent’s plan until 26 years old. This feature of the ACA did show a slight uptick in the number of young adults with dental insurance, but the impact was minimal.
No one is really sure how the new proposed healthcare plan will address adult dental care. One thing that is for sure is that lawmakers do not consider oral health an essential component to one’s overall health due to the lack of research addressing the correlation according to Burton Edelstein, DDS, MPH. Dr. Edelstein is a professor of Dental Medicine at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine and a professor of Health policy and management as well.
The future of dentistry under the new healthcare law, termed the American Health Care Act, looks bleak. Now the question is, is this good or bad for the dental patient. As we all know Obamacare has made seeking quality medical care very difficult for patients. Do we want to adopt a system that is similar for dentistry? Do we want patients to have a difficult time seeking quality dental care, or should we continue to allow employers to offer multiple quality dental plans to their employees and allow the employees to choose what is best for them. This may ultimately be the future of dentistry under the new healthcare law.
So in conclusion, as I always suggest to my patients, it is up to you to speak with your HR department and your employers about offering quality dental plans. Since the employers negotiate the contract and the options, it is up to them to provide quality options. However, it is contingent upon you to advocate for yourself regarding your own dental plan; and the future of dentistry for you and your family. Patient advocacy is vitally important to assure that your employer treats you with dignity by not cutting corners on costs related to oral health. Your advocacy is a key component to the future of dentistry in America.
Born and raised in San Diego, Dr. James Tasto attended University of San Diego High School where he lettered in both golf and wrestling. After earning a Bachelors in Science from Loyola Marymount University, Dr. Tasto graduated from University of Southern California Dental School with an emphasis on cosmetics and sports dentistry. Dr. James Tasto was selected by his peers to be included in the List of Top Dentists in San Diego for 2007 – 2013. He appeared in the May issue of San Diego Magazine. Dr. Tasto is also a member of D.O.C.S. (Doctors Offering Charitable Services), a local organization that offers medical services such as plastic surgery, vision and dental to the less fortunate patients in San Diego. Dr. Tasto currently resides in San Diego with his lovely wife Traci and their 3 children. He enjoys golf, beach volleyball and playing with his kids.