We don’t often associate crowded emergency departments with dental complaints. But according to The Pew Center on the States, preventable dental conditions were the primary diagnosis in over 800,000 visits to ERs in the U.S. This makes sense, as more than 100 million Americans lack oral health coverage, and therefore have impaired access to dental care. What’s more, poor oral health is an integral factor in physical health, associated with conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke and preterm birth. So regular detection and treatment of oral health problems – which are received more regularly by those with coverage – can improve physical health and quality of life.
While millions of American adults will gain health insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), that coverage may not include oral health services for everyone. PPACA ensures dental benefits for children in the “essential health benefits” package, but challenges remain to improve dental health access and coverage for adults.
What does the lack of oral health access cost states? What are different states doing to improve access? With 15 percent of the U.S. population living in dental “Health Professional Shortage Areas,” how can dental workforce shortages be addressed? What are “alternative dental health providers”? How do these alternative models aim to improve access, and are they financially feasible? How can collaborations between dentists and primary care physicians strengthen oral health care in the U.S.? What provisions under PPACA will impact oral health care? What is the status of the oral health demonstration projects authorized by the Act? What are the gaps and disparities in access and care?
To address these questions and more, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) sponsored an August 17 briefing. Panelists were: Lynn Mouden, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; Monica Hebl, American Dental Association; Julie Stitzel, Pew Center on the States; and Christy Fogarty, Children’s Dental Services, Minnesota. David Krol of RWJF and Ed Howard of the Alliance co-moderated.
Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Speaker Biographies (Adobe Acrobat PDF)