When small dental problems like cavities are allowed to fester, big health issues can develop, especially for kids. For this reason, the U.S. government decided to incorporate pediatric dental care into the “essential benefits” of the new health laws.
However, recent data suggests that reality hasn’t been holding up to this promise, and the government is failing to deliver. Many parents, it turns out, did not choose to purchase dental coverage during the online enrollment period of healthcare.
Health experts are foretelling that no good will come from children not receiving regular dental care. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists reports that about 60% of U.S. children have, or have had cavities by the time they’re five years old.
While many children receive dental coverage through either their parents’ employer-based health insurance, or through Medicaid, there is a gap between the two, and the American Dental Association says that 10 million children still lack dental insurance. While the numbers are still rolling in for the first enrollment period, stand-alone dental plans sold throughout the U.S. only amounted to about 65,000 children receiving new coverage.
Tooth decay is no small problem — not only do children collectively lose out on 51 million school hours each year thanks to dental disease, but they also face increased risks of developing ear and sinus infections, as well as experiencing chronic issues like diabetes and obesity later in life. “It starts having an impact much more than cavities,” says Dr. Paul Reggiardo, chairman of the Council on Dental Benefit Programs.
One problem with the current healthcare setup is that parents are not nationally required to buy dental coverage — and there’s no subsidy set up to help defray the costs. It’s worth noting that only 26% of medical plans being sold through the federal exchange actually include pediatric dental benefits.