Lack of Coverage in Obamacare Worries Dentists

Lack of Coverage in Obamacare Worries Dentists

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Mobile, AL -

President Obama claims more Americans will have access to healthcare when the Affordable Care Act takes effect next year. However, the law does not make dental coverage mandatory. This is worrying more than a few dentists.

Dr. Shaun Small is concerned about the future of dental care. Under the Affordable Care Act, dental coverage is not mandatory and there isn't much in the way of provisions for adult dental care. He believes insurance companies will start providing stand alone dental policies.

"The fear is that now parents will buy the medical policy that complies with the ACA and there's no penalty for them picking up the stand alone dental policy. Now you're going to have these children who did have dental insurance through their parents' work, now they're not going to be insured. You're taking middle-class children and you are, a lot of them may be losing their dental insurance, and children that were just above the federal poverty line are gaining dental insurance so it may be a one step forward, one step back, it might be a wash," says Small.

Another concern, the ACA will only cover for adults in states that have Medicare dental coverage for adults. In Alabama, Medicare coverage ends at age 19. But the fears don't end there.

"The first three years, the federal government will fund it 100% but then states will start picking up a percentage of the bill. And you may see those states that have extensive dental coverage for adults start taking away those benefits because they can't afford that," adds Small.

Dental care is vital, but Americans are not seeing the dentist as often as they should. Instead they wait and then rush to the emergency room. However, that creates problems as well, says Dr. Kristopher Portacci.

"I think the year 2000, it was one million dental emergency room visits. By the year 2010, there were 2.1 million," says Portacci.

And with more people putting off going to the dentist, infections could be on the rise. Dental infections are the cause of several deaths each year.

"Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body. When you have periodontal disease, you have issues that affect bloodstream, that affect heart, potentially can cause a stroke. It's definitely all related."

In some states, there also may be an access to care issue due to the lack of dental care providers.  Some schools are now providing two-year degrees for dental technicians which deems them qualified to perform basic dental procedures like fillings and extractions. As you can imagine, this is not going over well with dentists who have gone through ten years of school to enter their profession. Alabama is not yet allowing this change, but the fear is we will be seeing it sooner rather than later.

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