Unintended Consequences: Health Care Reform Proposals Would Disrupt Dental Coverage, Limit Competition

Thursday, November 5, 2009 General News
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OAK BROOK, Ill., Nov. 3 Health care reform legislation currently being considered in Congress has unintended consequences that would disrupt dental coverage for millions of Americans and limit competition, according to Kim Volk, president of Delta Dental Plans Association.

"Dental insurance has not received much attention in the health care reform debate, in part because dental benefits - and their prevention-based model - are what works in health care," Volk says. "We applaud Congress for its efforts to tackle the challenging issue of health care reform, and for including a children's dental benefit in health care reform legislation. However, the current proposal in the House of Representatives denies those seeking dental coverage a choice among the best possible options - and disrupts coverage for parents who already have it."

The House proposal would force families to buy children's dental insurance from medical insurers - without the option to purchase from more experienced stand-alone dental plans. It would also force parents who already have family dental coverage to purchase two dental plans - one for their children and one for themselves.

"This approach deprives consumers of competition, pricing transparency and the opportunity to choose from stand-alone dental options that are the standard in the employer-sponsored market," Volk says, noting that 97 percent of employer-sponsored dental contracts - covering 128 million individuals - are written separately from medical coverage.

"The current House proposal would disrupt coverage for an estimated 40 to 50 million children," Volk says, "and there's no guarantee that those families would be able to keep their family dentist. This disruption of coverage and splintering of dentist-patient relationships is likely unintended by lawmakers, but it would have a very real impact on American families."

The Senate Finance bill, by contrast, includes a provision to allow children's stand-alone dental policies to continue outside the exchange, and to be purchased in combination with medical plans inside the exchange. Volk says its unknown, however, if this provision will survive the final cut as the House and Senate finalize health care reform legislation.

Reform Requires Healthy Competition

Legislation should allow for vigorous competition among different types of insurance companies, including stand-alone dental carriers, Volk says, and the Senate Finance bill meets those objectives.

"We support health care reform that gives Americans the best dental plans, including stand-alone dental options and dental-focused carriers, and helps people keep their current dental coverage and current dentists," Volk says. "Legislation should require that dental health coverage be offered and priced separately to ensure transparency and price competition. We're not afraid of healthy competition, and true reform should encourage it."

Volk says Delta Dental plans to continue working with members of Congress and the Executive Branch to fashion legislation that meets the objectives of health care reform and is consistent with Delta Dental's mission of advancing oral health in America.

"Through straightforward amendments to the current legislation, we can prevent disruption, ensure competition and maintain our nation's hard-won gains in oral health."

The Delta Dental Plans Association (www.deltadental.com) based in Oak Brook, Ill., is the leading national network of independent dental service corporations specializing in providing dental benefits programs to more than 54 million Americans in more than 89,000 employee groups throughout the country.

Parents: Children's Dental Coverage "Extremely Important" According to a recent nationwide survey, nearly four of five parents (79%) say children's dental coverage is extremely important. The survey, conducted on behalf of the Delta Dental Plans Association, also indicated that nearly nine out of 10 parents (87%) say children's dental care is equally as important as medical care. "The question of how children's dental care is provided should not be an afterthought in health care reform," says Kim Volk, president of the Delta Dental Plans Association. "Parents should be able to choose among the best dental options for their children and be able to keep the dental coverage - and dentist - they already have."

SOURCE Delta Dental Plans Association

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