Obamacare & Dentistry

How Does Obamacare Affect Dentistry?

I have been asked this question over and over by patients.  Until recently I have mentioned that it really did not affect us in dentistry at this point.  However, today I had a rude awakening by my good friend and colleague, Marcus.  He brought to light something I had not considered before and caused me to rethink my answer to my patients.

Obamacare may actually affect dentistry more than I initially thought!  Insurance has been a difficult problem to deal with in dentistry and even more difficult is the PPO insurance plans.  These plans are taking the autonomy out of dentistry and pushing dentistry into the realms of the current medical model.

Insurance is now indirectly dictating treatment.  I can’t number the patients that will only do what their insurance dictates.  They want nothing to do with anything other than what their insurance will cover.  This is difficult for me, as a provider, to see because clearly the insurance company does NOT have the patients best interests in mind.  The insurance company is a business motivated by collecting premiums and paying out as little as possible.

Back to Obamacare.

We are going to see a few things happen in dentistry:

  • Increased numbers of children on Medicaid (Obamacare increases funding and access for children’s dental Medicaid).
  • Decreased amount of companies providing dental coverage because it isn’t mandated like healthcare.
  • Decreased adults wanting to pay for dental coverage because it’s not mandated and their premiums for health insurance are going up.

Let me explain:

– As all dental providers know, Medicaid currently is not great to put it lightly.  In some states it actually is not profitable to accept Medicaid.  With the amount of overhead that my office has, (which is not that high) we cannot afford to see Medicaid patients.  We simply either do it for no charge on a case-by-case basis or refer them to our annual Give Kids A Smile Day.  With many more children being on Medicaid this leaves an even larger access to care issue than we currently have!

– With the increasing costs of medical coverage I foresee that companies will begin to drop dental coverage as a means to buffer some costs.  Granted, in comparison to the cost of medical coverage, dental coverage is not that expensive.  However, with increased costs, companies always look for ways to offset those costs.  If this indeed happens, which I hope it does not, we will be seeing a lot of people stop doing preventative recall dentistry and move to being the “emergency” type of patient.

– Children are a great motivator for parents to do just about anything.  I mean why do you think McDonald’s started putting play lands in their restaurants and toys in Happy Meals?  When parents suddenly see that their children have dental coverage under Medicaid they may choose to drop dental coverage for themselves as a way to cut some personal budget costs.  Again, this will lead to many adults going into the “emergency” patient category and drop them out of the preventative recall system altogether.

So with these factors out there, I am much more worried about the effects of Obamacare on dentistry than I was initially.  There are some serious implications here that could have a negative impact on dentistry as a business!

There may be other things that I have not covered here.  Please comment below!

-Dr. Troy Stevens DDS

Dr. Stevens is a co-author of the book “So You Want to be a Dentist?: What you Must Know to Succeed in Dentistry”.  The book can be purchased at www.lulu.com, the iBookstore, Amazon.com, and many other digital retailers.

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