Pediatric dental coverage to be expanded in California

Pediatric dental coverage is being expanded in California.Covered California, the state’s marketplace for the Affordable Care Act, recently announced that seven insurers have signed up to offer small-group, child-only dental coverage as part of the health insurance marketplace.1

While the new plans are currently set for only the first year of the Affordable Care Act’s existence (2014), negotiations are underway to extend them into 2015 before eventually becoming a permanent part of health insurance coverage in California. That means California dentists and their registered dental assistants will soon be seeing an increased number of pediatric patients beginning next year.

Low rates, expanded coverage

With rates as low as $8 a month in some areas and a range of choices statewide, the new dental plans will help to rapidly expand dental care options for the youth of California. That expansion could set the stage for awareness of dental issues as those children mature into adulthood.

Five major insurance companies in the state – Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Delta Dental, Liberal Dental and Premier Access – will offer their plans to families through Covered California beginning in 2014. And all of those companies, with the exception of Anthem, will also provide benefits through Covered California’s Small Business Health Options Program, along with the Guardian, Metlife and Safeguard insurance companies.

Policies offered by those companies, combined with already existing stand-alone insurance options, should eliminate pediatric dental coverage gaps in the state, according to Covered California.

Impact of health exchanges on dentistry

Pediatric dental care has often been lost in the political wrangling and publicity surrounding the Affordable Care Act’s implementation. However, along with vision, dental coverage is considered “essential” by Covered California, meaning it must be part of the state’s insurance offerings.2

This development could also mean an increased emphasis on pediatric dental care in dental assistant colleges in California, as children will start to make up a greater percentage of patients in practices across the state.

And since these new plans are just the beginning of pediatric dental coverage expansion in the state, as Eileen Espejo, health policy director for Children Now, points out, “There will be changes coming in 2015.”

1 News Release, “Covered California Finalizes Contracts for Children’s Dental Plans in 2014,” Covered California, Sept. 13, 2013. http://www.healthexchange.ca.gov/Documents/DentalNewsRelease91313-FINAL.pdf
2¬†Bazar, Emily, “‘Ask Emily’ Takes Your Obamacare Questions,” Los Angeles Daily News, Sept. 20, 2013.¬†http://www.dailynews.com/government-and-politics/20130920/ask-emily-takes-your-obamacare-questions

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