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Advocacy News

ADA, Other Dental Groups Asking Congress to Protect Coverage Gains

March 06, 2017

Patient and health care professional groups are mobilizing to protect the gains they made under the Affordable Care Act, as two key House committees begin work this week on legislation to repeal and replace the law known as Obamacare.

The House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce committees will begin debate on the bill on Wednesday, making whatever changes members want before the legislation goes to the full House for a floor vote, which Speaker Paul Ryan said will occur in three weeks.

The legislation officially remains under wraps, although leaked documents and scuttlebutt on the Hill point to some provisions dealing with the Medicaid expansion and tax credits are expected to soften the blow of repeal. Conservatives are impatient to do away with Obamacare and are not likely to support measures tinkering with the law.

The American Dental Association has already made clear to Congress its desire to keep the parts of the ACA that expanded dental coverage, particularly for low-income children. Further, the Association joined with 16 other dental groups last week in writing to the chairmen and ranking members of House and Senate committees of jurisdiction, asking them not to sacrifice oral health care access gains, and to build on the successes achieved over the past few years. Pediatric dental benefits are one of the required “essential health benefits” that must be offered by plans sold on the marketplace exchanges under the ACA.

“Since 2000, the percentage of children without dental coverage has been cut in half,” the groups wrote. “These gains in coverage are due, in large part, to the explicit requirements in federal statute to ensure children’s oral health services are included in both public and private benefit packages.”

The dental groups ask Congress to consider a number of critical factors as it moves forward with health care reform:

  • Maintain the dental coverage and affordability protections gained by children and families;
  • Require benefit packages in both public and private coverage programs to include dental care, and maintain standards for first-dollar preventive oral health services;
  • Keep a comprehensive dental benefit for children in Medicaid [such as Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT)], including its requirements for oral health coverage;
  • Continue to fund the state-managed Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
  • Encourage greater transparency by private insurance plans regarding dental benefits and enrollment, and greater integration of dental coverage into insurance packages in a way that reduces costs and limits high deductibles;
  • Require oral health quality metrics for all coverage programs.