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Dental Care Policies Affected by Health Care Reform: 1800Dentist.com

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Health Care Overhaul bill into law in order to improve the way the nation is currently handling the health needs of the nation. WhiteHouse.gov's website proclaims "Health reform makes health care more affordable, holds insurers more accountable, expands coverage to all Americans and makes our health system sustainable," (http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/map). The laws have also improved access to dental care for millions of individuals in need.

Tooth decay and cavities are thought to be a scourge on the nation and while Health Reform did not fully address that issue, there are a number of clauses and provisions aimed at combating the problems at large. Dental industry insiders state that since the changes are plentiful but spread across many platforms, only time will fully reveal the full impact of the changes on the dental care industry. A Q and A session conducted by Medscape Medical News with presenter Jack Bresch, MALS, and the associate executive director of the ADEA,, provided that insight was provided during the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) meeting in early 2011 and further detail (http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/739090).

Children's Dental Care to Improve

Prior to health care reform, insurers did not need to extend a parent's or caregiver's dental insurance plan to those over 18 years of age. Not only does the law reverses that policy, but also requires basic care and essential dental treatments to provide dental health benefits for children up to the age of 21.

Financial grants supporting dental sealant programs have also been authorized. Dental sealants are a preventative dental care tooth coating that has been scientifically proven to reduce levels of tooth decay in both children and adults. As dental sealant programs expand, it is expected that national levels of tooth decay will decline.

Additionally, the policy created a new Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program department. That team is charged with the task of reviewing the Medicaid reimbursement structure for participating dentists. The national average of Medicaid reimbursement for retail fees is 60.5 percent and the states with the highest levels of compensation are doing better at providing dental care to needy children (http://www.pewcenteronthestates.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=85899360123). Once the data is gathered, additional dental care reforms are expected.


Health Reform Supports Creation of New Dental Service Provider

The New York Times reported "Since 1990, the number of private dentists has remained roughly flat, at 150,000, even as the United States population has increased 22 percent," (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/business/28teeth.html?adxnnl=1&pagewanted=2&adxnnlx=1307725920-TXxhGk/udcBwKdj93SjFLw). That imbalance has created a surge of communities deemed "Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas," (HPSA).

A number of organizations are supporting the creation of a new type of dental service provider to fill the void and health care reform has allotted $4 million over the next five years to study and determine what type of mid-level dental care provider would best address the nation's need. Currently there are three different models that are going to be reviewed and have different supporters:

  • The American Dental Association (ADA) is supporting a Health Coordinator position that would "...focus on dental skills, and work in underserved communities, helping residents improve their oral care," (http://www.ada.org/3500.aspx). The main focus would be education and preventative dentistry to prohibit disease development.
  • Dental Health Aide Therapists are also being reviewed. That program first originated in Alaska and Minnesota has recently approved the position. Support for dental therapists is coming from the Pew Center on the States, an independent think tank conducting its own research into the nation's dental care crisis. This type of dental care provider works in dental clinics and can provide basic dental care such as filling cavities and pulling teeth.
  • The American Dental Hygienists Association supports the Registered Dental Hygienist (RDH) role. The model is already used in California and the provider can practice unsupervised and own their own dental clinic business.

Presently many states are investing the time and resources to find their own mid-level service provider to help fill the void. Health care reform will provide an organized structure in regards to education and what dental treatments the mid-level providers can apply in order select the best available option.

When Will Changes Take Effect

Although Health Care reform was signed into law in 2010, various aspects of the policy are going to continue to roll-out into 2018. The new government provisions backed by the oral-hygiene practices of brushing, flossing and regular dental visits exams are expected to improve the nation's dental care as a whole. Individuals are advised not to wait until all the revisions materialize and should proactively seek dental care now. Those needing to find a dentist can call1-800-DENTIST 24/7 to find a great provider.

 
 
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