Dental coverage could be on the chopping block as GOP lawmakers form their new health care plan. Coverage for children, and some adults, are currently essential health benefits under Obamacare, but Congress is working toward a plan that would leave some benefits, such as dental coverage, for states to decide.
Currently, states are required to provide dental coverage for children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. The Early and Periodic Screening Diagnostic and Treatment benefit, part of Medicaid, covers the cost of children’s dental health and any needed relief from dental pain or restoration of teeth.
Adult coverage is up to the states. Almost all states provide some type of limited dental coverage such as emergency services, but historically, adult dental benefits are often the first to go when budgets shrink.
Experts in the dental community worry that if coverage for children is optional for states, their coverage would easily be yanked. This change could also lead to a shrinkage in the number of providers due to lower reimbursement rates for dentists.
For many, dental coverage under Medicaid is the only reason their dental needs are met. A study by the Journal of The American Dental Association found that the shift toward the use of public insurance had a significant association with a higher use of dental services in the United States.
The American Dental Association has been lobbying Congress, urging them to keep dental coverage.
Jane Snyder is a health intern with Paste and a freelance writer and photojournalist based out of Athens, Georgia.