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Partnering with you to help create healthy smiles

Your dental policy brief: News updates as of October 4

Insurance reform, lobbying updates, Medicaid and COVID! Here are some of the major news stories from the past two months that intersect with the dental industry.

1. The American Dental Association (ADA) backs insurance reform and Medicare dental changes

Late in September, the ADA committed $5 million to support a Massachusetts ballot initiative that would require dental insurance companies to operate at a minimum medical loss ratio (MLR). If passed, this initiative would require dental insurance companies to both report their MLRs but also to operate at a minimum 83% MLR.

Similarly, in early September,  the ADA announced its support for the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposal to expand coverage of medically necessary conditions that require dental services. However, the ADA also maintained its concerns about the cost and management of such services. Previously, the ADA had actively opposed a different proposal to expand Medicare patients’ access to dental services through Medicare Part B.

2. Surprising statistics about lobbying

According to an abstract published by the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons donated nearly $5 million to political campaigns and committees over the last decade. Interestingly enough, more money was given to nonpartisan committees than to explicitly Republican or Democratic ones.

3. Medicaid and kids’ oral health

Several studies with interesting findings around Medicaid and kids’ oral health outcomes have been published over the past few months:

  • According to a study published in Academic Pediatrics, children with behavioural health issues were significantly less likely to receive preventive care and more likely to have more expensive dental visits. This cost nearly $10.5 million more over a seven year period.
  • On a related note, a study in JAMA found that more generous Medicaid policies led to better outcomes in children’s oral health. Unfortunately, only 1 in 3 dentists take Medicaid, according to Medical Care Research and Review.

4. Burnout woes

It should come as no surprise that burnout is higher than ever among dentists because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, nearly 1 in 7 dentists experienced burnout, but now  that number’s soared to nearly three-quarters. Two-thirds of female dentists report frequent feelings of burnout (once a week or more), while half of male dentists do. Hygienists have reportedly experienced  burnout even worse than dentists, too.