Insurers recognize oral and systemic health link

June 30, 2006
CIGNA increases reimbursement for members in diabetes or cardiovascular management programs.

CIGNA Dental recently announced that it will expand its Oral Health Integration Program to promote the treatment of gum disease for members with diabetes and cardiovascular disease by adding two new initiatives.

CIGNA Dental has also created a clinical advisory panel to guide the creation of innovative coverage options for emerging issues of medical/dental integration, new developing dental technologies, and evidence-based strategies.

Beginning July 1, 2006, CIGNA Dental members who are also enrolled in CIGNA HealthCare's disease management programs for diabetes and cardiac care, will be eligible to receive 100 percent reimbursement for the costs associated with periodontal maintenance, scaling, and root planing. These new programs expand upon the previously launched CIGNA Dental Oral Health Maternity Program (SM) (OHMP), which provides greater benefits for members enrolled in both CIGNA medical and dental coverage during pregnancy. These plans have been designed to help eliminate cost as a barrier to receiving appropriate treatment.

The Oral Health Diabetes and Cardiovascular Programs were created to address evidence demonstrating a link between oral and systemic health conditions. It has been shown that patients with diabetes are more prone to infection and are at greater risk for gum disease. This can then increase the time a diabetic's blood sugar remains heightened. Studies have proven that when the periodontal disease was treated, patients experienced a significant improvement in the ability to manage their blood sugar.

Also, there is growing evidence that shows people with periodontal disease to be at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Caused by bacterial by-products from gum tissue that enter the blood stream and cause blood clots, periodontal disease increases the likelihood that these clots may build in the heart and arteries.

With substantial costs accruing in treating both diabetes and heart disease nationwide, these programs offer a cost-effective means of preventive treatment, which should help reduce the amount spent each year on combating the effects of these diseases heightened by periodontal disease.

Source: ADHA Web site; accessed June 26, 2006, and SOURCE: CIGNA Dental