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ADA to Congress: Prioritize oral health in ACA reform

March 08, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — Medicaid reform. Improving dental plan transparency. Making health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts more flexible.

These are some of the issues the Association has asked Congress to prioritize as it considers legislation amending the Affordable Care Act.

“Studies show that good oral health yields savings in future medical and dental costs, particularly among individuals with comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease. Further, evidence shows that children with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school than those who receive appropriate preventive care,” wrote ADA President Gary L. Roberts and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin in March 7 letters sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means and House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

For the issue of Medicaid reform, Drs. Roberts and O’Loughlin urged Congress to approve legislation providing comprehensive oral health services for children and also requested legislators help states preserve adult dental benefits by “allowing the use of any innovation funds in states that wish to expand coverage.” Additionally, the Association would also like Congress to encourage Tom Price, M.D., secretary of Health and Human Services, to provide guidance to state Medicaid providers regarding access to oral health services.

Drs. Roberts and O’Loughlin also asked Congress to promote the “transparency of dental plans to support consumer awareness” on dental premiums and benefits, out-of-pocket costs and participating health care professionals. This includes ensuring consumer protection measures and first-dollar coverage for preventive dental services.

The ADA additionally would like Congress to expand the availability and flexibility of health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts and to preserve the current tax exclusions for employer-provided medical and dental plans. In February, the ADA and members of the Organized Dentistry Coalition asked Congress to support the Responsible Additions and Increases to Sustain Employee Health Benefits Act of 2017, which would expand the current FSA annual contribution cap from $2,600 to $5,000.

The ADA and the coalition also supported repealing the medical device tax, which Congress has included in Budget Reconciliation Legislation Recommendations to Repeal and Replace Health-Related Tax Policy. This tax would have increased the cost of dental care and of the overall cost of health care in excess of $160 million resulting in significant harm to our patients and the profession.

Congress is currently addressing both of these issues.

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