CHICAGO--The health-care reform bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March 2010 includes many provisions aimed at the nation's oral health.
The bill does guarantee oral health coverage for children and allows for resources to extend oral disease prevention measures in every state. Over time, the bill's provisions could help to increase access to care for all ages.
"Oral Health America supports the numerous measures of the health-care reform bill that represent real commitment on the part of our lawmakers to improve our nation's oral health," said Beth Truett, president and CEO, Oral Health America.
"This is a great start, and we look forward to continued health reform opportunities to ensure that all Americans are able to obtain the preventive and restorative care they need."
According to the bill, oral health care for children under age 21 must be included in any essential benefit package offered by a health insurance exchange.
To help extend access to preventive care, the bill allows for school-based sealant programs in all 50 states, and an oral health education program targeting vulnerable populations. This includes children, pregnant women, and older Americans.
The bill also allows for grants totaling $60 million to be awarded to up to 15 programs to train or employ alternative dental health providers.
The Medicaid limit is now set at 133% of the federal poverty level, meaning an additional 16 million people will be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Medicaid dental benefits for adults are still optional for states to provide or not, but states can no longer drop dental benefit packages currently offered.
Prior to the passage of the bill, Arizona was the last state in a national trend to drop its adult Medicaid dental program, and the first state to drop its Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Program. This affected 38,000 low-income children.
For America's growing population aged 65 and older, the bill represents no change to the fact that Medicare does not provide routine dental care benefits.
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