Baltimore Sun: Advocates, Insurers Duel Over Cost of Child Dental Coverage
Like most 3-year-olds, Mariah Venable is a climber and a jumper. And sometimes she lands on her face instead of her legs.
Her acrobatic attempts have cost her two baby teeth already — and have left her mother thankful she has good dental insurance.
"You have to start on their teeth early so they don't have issues when they get older," said Cheryl Venable, who recently took her daughter — smiling wide through the gaps — to a city clinic that offers dental care to low-income and uninsured families.
Health advocates are concerned that new guidance from the Obama administration could make it more expensive for some low- and middle-income parents to pay for dental insurance for their children once the new health care law takes effect next year.
The rules could add up to $2,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs — which, advocates say, could lead some parents to forgo the coverage.
Advocates are concerned that the structure provides no incentive for health insurance companies to provide dental coverage and that consumers choose not to buy an expensive stand-alone plan.
"Most will not take the insurance because they're going to see it as an additional cost, " said Dr. Patricia L. Bell-McDuffie, the director of oral health services for the Baltimore City Health Department. "From a professional point of view, it's a no-brainer to have pediatric dental as part of regular health insurance."
But insurance industry officials say most health and dental policies already are sold separately, which lets people choose whether they want to pay for additional coverage. And they argue that it would be too complicated to combine two different plans under one set of premiums, deductibles and co-pays.
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