Will the federal government make dental insurance available to everyone?

Dental Insurance - US Flag

If a new rule moves forward, people could one day affordably enjoy care for their teeth

Dental insurance is a kind of coverage carried by few people outside of benefits packages offered by employers, but that could change if a new federal rule is allowed to move forward.

The idea is to make it easier for people to care for their smiles

After all, without dental insurance, if someone suffers a cavity, a cracked tooth, or another type of painful dental injury, the out-of-pocket cost can be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. This type of expense – particularly right now – leaves many Americans without any obvious options for receiving timely care.

Dental Insurance - Oral healthcare

In some states, the best that could be hoped for is to be on a waitlist for an appointment with one of the small number of dentists who accept Medicaid, and that’s only possible for those who are covered by Medicaid, the government coverage for low-income families.

Many people without dental insurance head to the emergency room

Without any other options for affordable dental care, many people go to the emergency department, adding to expenses and longer waits that many believe would be avoidable if coverage were more commonplace.  Government funded emergency rooms and community health centers are also not an ideal option for receiving care, as it typically doesn’t lead to a procedure to repair the problem but instead often yields only painkiller and antibiotic prescriptions. 

Not only does that fail to offer a long-term solution, but it also contributes to both the prescription drug addiction crisis and the antimicrobial resistance crisis that are both growing out of control not only in the United States but around the world.

Coverage instead of loans

Some Americans currently rely on loans from friends, family, banks, or less affordable sources in order to be able to pay a dentist or oral surgeon to perform a procedure. Cash is usually required upfront, so it can mean that people need to wait a long time before having the procedure, increasing the risk of infection and therefore the amount of time (and expense) needed for recovery). This is dangerous, and infections in the mouth can rapidly enter the blood and become worse or even deadly.

The federal government is now considering adding dental insurance to the Affordable Care Act. This would increase the number of Americans with the coverage by tens of millions by offering subsidies through federal and state marketplaces selling it.

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