There’s been a lot of talk about how the Affordable Care Act will change existing dental insurance conditions. The upcoming ACA, is set to allegedly, help low-income families afford dental care. Unfortunately, the current state of health insurance has left many families in the dust when it comes to affordable dental care. Without dental coverage, families are forced to put off receiving dental treatment, often compounding, and increasing the severity of existing dental problems.
This can have a negative impact on a child’s quality of life. Not to mention neglected dental problems end up being more expensive for everyone. Hopefully ACA’s inclusive policies regarding kids and dental care, will help kids get the dental care they need, and drive the cost of dental insurance down for everyone else.
So how bad is the problem of untreated dental issues in the US? According to some reports, the situation does not look good. In a public discussion called, Public Forum: Dental Care Coverage and Access, Diane Rowland reported that 44 percent of Medicare beneficiaries report no dentist visit in the past year, and Medicare itself does not cover primary dental services, so it’s not a covered benefit under the Medicare program. Medicare recipients aren’t the only ones who go without medical care, but their lack of access is indicative of a nation-wide crisis.
The consequences of the gap in access to dental care, are immense. In 2012, a study was performed assessing the impact of untreated dental issues has on how low-income kids do in school. The results were damning. Kids who had suffered from dental related pain in the past six months, were four times as likely to perform below average in school. That’s just the effect a toothache can have on school performance. It’s easy to imagine that if dental problems can have that profound of an effect on kid’s school performance, that it could easily infiltrate other areas of life as well. Having constant, nagging pain in your mouth, reduces the quality of your life.
In theory, if we provide more accessible dental care to low-income families, dental problems, which are often precursors or accompaniment to more serious health issues, will be reduced. With a reduction in dental issues in low-income families, the number of dental-related emergency surgeries that the taxpayers will end up having to pay for will also go down. With fewer emergency dental occurrences that end up going unpaid, perhaps it will eventually help drive prices for all healthcare down.
While the positive effects of the ACA remain to be seen, there is some hope it will help families receive, and have access to, affordable dental care. Many parts of the ACA call for better benefit offerings for medicare and large insurance carriers. One requirement of insurance companies that the ACA set forth is known as “Essential Health Benefits (EHBs).” Essential Health Benefits guarantee that plans purchased will offer critical benefits that are often left out of plans, such as vision, dental and mental health care.
There are no promises when it comes to any of this, and a large part of the outcome depends on state elections soon to come. We can only hope that both government and insurance companies alike, will do what they can to offer comprehensive insurance plans that Americans can actually afford. The effects of untreated dental issues in kids is too serious to ignore.