Employers Brighten Smiles With Extended Dental Coverage

Some young adults are enjoying extended dental coverage under the health care policies of their parents whose employers are voluntarily expanding such coverage in conjunction with expanded medical coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). That’s according to a report published in Medical Care, a journal of the American Public Health Association. Although the ACA allows parents to keep their children on their medical plans up to age 26, there is no similar requirement for dental coverage.

American Dental Association president Charles Norman praised the report. “Given that the ACA fell far short of what it should have done for adult dental coverage, this at least is encouraging news,” he said.

Three outcomes studied. Authors Marko Vujicic, PhD, Cassandra Yarbrough, MPP, and Kamyar Nasseh, PhD, examined the impact of the ACA policy on three outcomes: dental benefits coverage, dental care utilization, and financial barriers to dental care. Analyzing two years of post-reform data, they found that the ACA’s expanded dependent coverage provision increased access to dental care for young adults ages 19 to 25 by 6.9 percentage points. Given that the pre-reform coverage rate for this group was 38 percent, this is a significant increase, according to the report.

Utilization of dental services also had increased by 3.3 percentage points. Finally, the study showed that the ACA policy led to a 2 percentage point decrease in the likelihood of this age group experiencing financial barriers to dental care.

The ACA medical coverage expansion’s effect on dental coverage could slow a trend in recent years that has seen fewer young adults seeking and receiving routine dental care, the report concludes.

For more information, visit http://journals.lww.com/lww-medicalcare/Abstract/2014/08000/The_Effect_of_the_Affordable_Care_Act_s_Expanded.7.aspx.

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