Dental and medical benefits should be integrated

I find it really strange that dental care is excluded form health insurance, including commercial and government programs. It’s increasingly untenable in my view. Why?

  • Neglect of dental issues due to lack of coverage causes higher medical expenses, for example as dental infections spread to other parts of the body
  • Hospital emergency rooms are seeing many dental cases (representing as much as 2.7% of ER volume) and are not well equipped to treat the problems, according to USA Today. In any case the expense is high
  • Even well-off people with medical coverage often don’t qualify for dental insurance –e.g., because they aren’t part of a group–  and end up paying high fee for service rates to providers rather than benefitting from a plan’s purchasing power and network
  • To the extent that we are moving toward a more integrated approach to care and payment (e.g., medical home, accountable care organization) it makes sense to bring the whole body under one roof
Probably the main reason medical insurance doesn’t include dental is the added cost. With costs already high and rising inexorably, it’s hard to find the government or employer budget to add another thing. But I still think it’s worth doing.
January 20, 2012

2 thoughts on “Dental and medical benefits should be integrated”

  1. It would be interesting to look under the covers on dental insurance. Any experts out there?

    It seems like most dental insurance merely covers two cleanings per year, an xray every five years, and little else. When was the last time you had dental insurance pay for a dental procedure?

    So I would define “dental insurance as a pre-payment plan – not insurance.

    In sum, dental insurance (as it exists today) is more of a scam than real insurance. If you add up the amounts that employers and employees pay combined – there’s a lot of excess payment going somewhere – but NOT to patients or providers.

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