January 20th, 2012 by David E. Williams of the Health business blog
I find it really strange that dental care is excluded form health insurance, including commercial and government programs. It’s increasingly untenable in my view. Why?
- Neglect of dental issues due to lack of coverage causes higher medical expenses, for example as dental infections spread to other parts of the body
- Hospital emergency rooms are seeing many dental cases (representing as much as 2.7% of ER volume) and are not well equipped to treat the problems, according to USA Today. In any case the expense is high
- Even well-off people with medical coverage often don’t qualify for dental insurance –e.g., because they aren’t part of a group– and end up paying high fee for service rates to providers rather than benefitting from a plan’s purchasing power and network
- To the extent that we are moving toward a more integrated approach to care and payment (e.g., medical home, accountable care organization) it makes sense to bring the whole body under one roof
Probably the main reason medical insurance doesn’t include dental is the added cost. With costs already high and rising inexorably, it’s hard to find the government or employer budget to add another thing. But I still think it’s worth doing.