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What the Health Reform Bill Means for Dental Care

Posted Mar 25 2010 4:14pm

The Health Reform Bill signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, is sure to change the face of healthcare in America – for better or worse. The bill represented one of the most contentious legislative battles in recent memory. So contentious, in fact, that the final vote split down party lines. Within the dental industry, the story was no different. Many industry groups hold opposing stances with regards to the bill. Some groups even neglected to take an official stance due to the highly-politicized nature of the bill. What we can all agree on, however, is that the Health Reform Bill will produce a number of changes to the way dental care is administered, promoted and payed for.

Sadly, not much has been said in the mainstream media about the specific ways the Health Reform Bill will affect those of us in the dentistry field. In fact, that’s the inspiration behind this post. Below, you will find a list of the ways this bill will affect you – the dental professional – minus the politics. The Health Reform Bill will:

1. Require insurance plans to include pediatric oral health services for children up to 21 years of age

2. Establish an oral health prevention program and fund states to develop oral health leadership

3. Enhance oral health data systems

4. Implement dental sealants, water fluoridation and preventive programs

5. Establish a five-year national, public education campaign focused on oral health care prevention and education and targeted to certain populations, including children, the elderly, and pregnant women

6. Require essential health benefits package to include oral care among other things

7. Award demonstration grants in consultation with professional oral health organizations to eligible entities to demonstrate the effectiveness of research-based dental caries disease management activities

8. Authorize the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to review payments for dental services in Medicaid and CHIP

9. Establish a process for updating payments to dental health professionals

10. Reaffirm that dentists will be members of the Commission

11. Establish a separate dental section and funding line of $30 million for training in general, pediatric, and public health dentistry

12. Increase eligibility for new grant programs in the Title VII Health Professions Programs to train dental and allied dental health professionals

13. Make dental schools eligible for federal grants for pre-doctoral training, faculty development, dental faculty loan repayment, and academic administrative units, grants currently available only to medical schools

14. Modify current law to allow hospitals to count dental and medical resident time spent in didactic (scholarly) activities toward Indirect Medical Education (IME) costs in hospital settings and toward Direct Graduate Medical Education (D-GME) in non-hospital settings (dental school clinics)

15. Authorize grants to establish training programs for alternative dental health care providers to increase access to dental health care services in rural, tribal, and underserved communities

16. Exempt dental coverage from the premium amounts subject to excise tax on high cost insurance plans

The takeaway? Both the patients being served and the way dental care is delivered will look quite different in the coming years. Only time will tell if these measures will represent a positive or negative change for dentistry. What are your thoughts?

I know you guys have opinions about the measures set forth in the Health Reform Bill that specifically relate to dentistry – let’s hear them. Leave a comment below and let the discussion begin!

As you can see, I just scratched the surface with the list above. Take a look at some of these additional resources from the ADA, ADHA and ADEA for more in-depth information related to dental care’s place in the Health Reform Bill.

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