Friday, January 29, 2010

Washington’s Unseen Oral Health Debate

President Obama’s state of the union address the other night sent a clear message that the health care reform debate will continue in some form. Whatever happens, lawmakers should not overlook what happens above the neck—the importance that oral health plays in an individual’s overall health.

The good news is that today, more than 174 million Americans have dental coverage, and 97 percent of that is provided by stand-alone and dedicated dental insurance companies. Dental insurance companies have a singular focus that has resulted in affordable coverage—the average individual plan is around $30 a month—with an emphasis on preventive services like sealants and fluoride treatments.

The old adage—“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”—should apply here. The system works. Yet there are proposals in Congress that would force up to 50 million children to switch dental coverage from a stand-alone plan to one administered by a medical insurer (like HMOs). This overlooks the benefit of stand-alone plans and would put Americans’ oral health needs at risk.

Congress should move forward to overhaul our health care system, but we shouldn’t attempt to ‘fix’ what already works in providing Americans high quality oral health care.

Guest Blog Post by Fay Donohue, President and CEO of DentaQuest