What Health Reform Means for Oral Health

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As the excitement surrounding President Obama’s historic health reform legislation begins to settle, plenty of questions remain about how our health care system will be changed. We’re particularly interested by how the new legislation will affect oral health care in this country.

The Maine Dental Access Coalition offers a great overview of the ways in which health reform is expected to impact oral health for Americans. Some of the highlights include:

-Insurance plans created for the uninsured through state exchanges will be required to provide pediatric oral health services and prevent any patient out of pocket expenses for preventive services.

-Rebates will be used to pay for dental services provided through Medicare Advantage plans.

-Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission must create a report for Congress summarizing reimbursements to dental professionals for services rendered through these programs.

-Grants for school health centers to provide oral health services.

-Establishment of a 5 year oral health campaign which will focus on advocacy and education for the prevention of childhood caries and oral health care for pregnant women and other vulnerable populations.

-All states, territories and Indian tribes will receive funding for school-based sealant programs. This marks a fundamental change in policy since there are currently only 16 states receiving federal funding for these types of programs.

-The CDC will bolster its relationship with all states and territories to create a comprehensive oral health infrastructure to include continuous data collection, interpretation, delivery system improvements and science-based population programs

-Oral health reporting for pregnant women through Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) will become mandatory (currently this reporting is optional).

-All states must participate in the CDC’s National Oral Health Surveillance System (only 16 states currently participate).

-A 5 year, $4 million 15 site demonstration project will be launched to train “alternative dental health care providers”

-Support will be provided for training general, pediatric and public health dental professionals and the establishment of a dental faculty loan repayment program for faculty engaged in public health and primary care dentistry.

Visit the Maine Dental Access Coalition’s Public Policy page for a full description of how health reform will impact oral health care.

Vanessa Hurley

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