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Making Dental Care More Affordable for Patients

Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Featured | Comments Off on Making Dental Care More Affordable for Patients

With the advent of Obamacare in 2010, more and more people were expected to sign up for affordable healthcare. While many people have benefited from this subsidized healthcare, not as many people signed up as were expected to.

The Fiscal Times looked at different demographics, and unsurprisingly, those with low incomes are often waiving health insurance due to deductibles and premiums that are too high.

And even if those in dire straits do end up getting a healthcare package, they may end up opting out of dentistry benefits. One Medline Plus article has more on this topic:

Many Americans Skip the Dentist Due to Cost

Americans are more likely to skip needed dental care because of cost than any other type of health care, researchers report.

Working-age adults are particularly vulnerable, the study found. Some 13 percent reported forgoing dental care because of cost. That’s nearly double the proportion of seniors and triple the percentage of children for whom cost poses a barrier to dental care, the study showed.
Cost was the main impediment to dental care even for adults with private insurance. “It seems like medical insurance is doing a better job at protecting consumers from financial hardship than dental insurance,” said study author Marko Vujicic. Typically, private dental insurance includes annual maximum benefit limits and significant “coinsurance” — the patient’s share of costs on covered services, Vujicic explained. He is chief economist and vice president of the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Health Policy Institute in Chicago.

. . . Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, agreed with the report that avoiding dental care can affect overall health. Fortunately, the percentage of the population citing cost as a reason for not getting dental services has declined steadily since 2010, Ireland said. And in 2014, it was the lowest since 2003, she added.
Colin Bradley is vice president of business development at Winston Benefits Inc., a company that helps employers administer dental benefits. He said employers who offer private dental plans must emphasize the value of those benefits, including preventive services often provided at no out-of-pocket cost. Read full article here . . .

No one wants to make generalizations, but it is sometimes easy for patients to isolate their dental health from other bodily concerns even though oral issues can definitely impact overall health. Although the Medline Plus article makes a point that problems with cost have steadily declined, efforts should still be made to keep it that way. For instance, the article did say that educating the general public about the benefits of preventative dentistry should be top priority.

Along with increased educational resources, a study presented at illustrates that early intervention with children can also eliminate cost issues:

Study: School-based sealant programs save money

Programs that provide dental sealant to children at schools are cost-effective and prevent the need for many fillings, according to a new study published in the December issue of Health Affairs.

The results, which were published in Health Affairs, provide useful information for comparing school-based sealant programs with other alternatives. These programs typically provide sealants at little or no cost to children attending schools with a large population of low-income families who do not receive regular dental care.

“Increasing sealant prevalence among low-income children could save society money and decrease toothaches and their sequelae,” the study authors wrote (Health Affairs, December 2016, Vol. 35:12, pp. 2233-2240).
The authors noted that 27% of low-income children in the U.S. have untreated cavities by adolescence. However, sealants are used in only 38% of lower-income children compared with 47% of those from higher-income families. School-based sealant programs have been shown to increase the number of students receiving sealants and prevent cavities.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of public health experts, has recommended school-based sealant programs since 2002. Nonetheless, in 2013 only 15 states had such programs in more than half of schools serving low-income populations, defined as those in which most students participated in the free and reduced-cost meal program. Read the full article here . . .

If children have better health from these sealant programs, then they won’t have to see the dentist for a host of issues down the line. Early prevention equals better health; better health means less dentist visits; and less dentist visits means more money in the bank.

It’s honestly too bad that only 15 states have implemented such sealant programs. While these children would still need to see the dentist for an annual visit, their parents wouldn’t need to pay exorbitant amounts of money for fillings, extractions, or even prostheses. Hopefully there will be changes in the future that emphasize the importance of affordable dental care.

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