Your teeth are important, too

There’s an article in the WSJ that focuses on the dental aspects of the ACA. Those are too often ignored:

The 2010 health law provides dental coverage for lower-income children, some of whom don’t get their teeth checked regularly. But some people in the dental business say the number signing up for new plans may be lower than hoped, because people are likely to have to pay for the benefit separately.

Rules on pediatric dental plans and many other aspects of the Affordable Care Act are due as soon as this week. The law, meant to bring health coverage to some 30 million currently uninsured Americans, moves into higher gear this fall, when people will be able to buy coverage for 2014 on insurance exchanges being set up by states and the federal government. A U.S. Health and Human Services spokeswoman declined to comment on the rules.

Pediatric dental coverage is among 10 benefits—including prescription drugs, mental-health services and physical rehabilitation—that insurance plans on the exchanges must include. However, the benefit is likely to be offered through stand-alone dental plans and reflects the way dental benefits are currently offered by most large employers, and means people would need to buy both a medical plan and dental insurance if they have kids. The law does allow dental benefits to be embedded in medical plans.

That means people could choose to go without the dental portion. Unlike regular health coverage—which people must carry or pay a fine, under a provision narrowly upheld by the Supreme Court—parents aren’t likely to be fined for failing to put their children in a dental plan.

For some reason I don’t understand, people treat dental insurance, and dental care, as a secondary, less important piece of health care. When it comes to kids, that’s sorta crazy. Caries, or “cavities”, are caused by bacteria on teeth that break down the enamel and cause decay. They are largely preventable. Still, caries are the most common chronic disease in kids 6 to 19 years of age. They are four times more common than asthma in kids 14 to 17 years of age. They’re also an issue in adults.

Yes, fluoridation helps (although people still fight that), but it’s not enough. You need to take care of your teeth for the same reason you need to take care of your body. You need access to dental care just like you do health care, But for some reason, we keep treating such assess as an afterthought. That’s pretty shortsighted.


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