by Bob Herman, Modern Healthcare
December 9, 2014 – 11:25am
Dental care is a peculiar niche of the U.S. healthcare system. Even though teeth and gums are just as much part of the human body as kidneys or elbows, they are insured differently — a lot differently.
When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was written and debated, comprehensive dental insurance never really became a focal point. Lawmakers ultimately created a few provisions that may boost access to oral care, but dental coverage still escapes the grasp of millions of Americans.
Dental plans garnered national attention after it was discovered that HHS overstated 2014 enrollment figures in the ACA's insurance exchanges. The government included almost 400,000 stand-alone dental plans, which are much cheaper and separate from standard health plans. After accounting for those, the number of people who were enrolled in full-service medical plans was 6.7 million. A House committee plans to grill CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on the numbers Tuesday.
Lost in that discussion, however, is the question of how much the law has done to advance dental care. Not enough, advocates argue.