I don’t get no respect.
Even health reform’s Affordable Care Act declared only kids’ dental health (pediatric oral care) as essential health benefits.
A recent post at Boston’s National Public Radio (NPR) news station site wondered why we separate dental and medical care.
Being the self-professed dental geek that I am, I had to chime in.
Dental Care Vs Dental Insurance
We discovered with the Affordable Care Act that there is a difference between care and insurance. We’ll use the NPR post to illustrate those differences.
The patient was concerned about the lack of coordination between his dental and medical care. His doctor had no idea he was receiving dental implants or the prescribed antibiotics.
As the post’s author expressed ~
“…why, in this era of integrated medicine, do we continue to
carve out the teeth?”
Dr. James Gutmann, editor of the Journal of the History of Dentistry, points to the birth of insurance as the time medical and dental care began to be viewed separately.
Dr. Gutmann states there was no dental insurance back in the 1960s and 70s – as far as he knew.
One of the advantages of being old is you know obscure stuff. I paid dental claims in the 1970s. Generally, you saw two types of dental coverage.
- Unions for large companies had dental insurance policies, separate from medical.
- Most medical policies had limited coverage for specific dental treatment.
Typically, the limited coverage included the removal of wisdom teeth, an apicoectomy (removal of the tip of a tooth and infected tissues), and accident-related treatment.
As employee benefits evolved, more companies added separate dental insurance policies.
Then and Now
Dental policies of the 70s were never intended to cover all dental treatment.
- Dental policies had a specific list of covered services
- The policies had limited annual maximums
- Orthodontic coverage was optional – if purchased, treatment was subject to a lifetime dollar maximum
While some dental policies expanded the list and increased maximums, the policies have not changed much. Even with insurance, patients can end up owing thousands of dollars.
The Broken State of Dental Insurance explains some of the effects of today’s dental policies.
- Only 1% of dental policies are purchased as an individual policy
- Most (81%) are purchased through an employer
- Emergency room visits for dental-related problems are on the rise
So, are we back to square one?
- Should dental and medical coverage join forces?
- Do we continue to compartmentalize our health when it comes to insurance?
- Or are we ready to create a system for total health? Total well-being?
Helping you Keep it simple, clear & uniquely yours – contact me for help with your business writing needs. Visit my business blog, Simply stated business.
Notice of Disclaimer –Cathy Miller is not an attorney or health care provider and cannot provide legal or health care advice. The information provided is for your general background only, and is not intended to constitute legal or health care advice as to your specific circumstances. We recommend you review legislation with legal counsel and visit your physician for health care issues.