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ACA's "Spillover" Effect: Dental Coverage Rate Increasing for Young Adults

Posted on July 24, 2014

WASHINGTONJuly 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- According to a new report published in Medical Care, some young adults are enjoying extended dental coverage under the health care policies of their parents, whose employers are voluntarily expanding dental coverage in conjunction with expanded medical coverage. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows parents to keep their children on their medical plans up to age 26, there is no similar requirement for dental coverage.

Analyzing two years of post-reform data, the report's authors found that the ACA's expanded dependent coverage provision increased access to dental care for young adults ages 19-25 by 6.9 percentage points. Given that the pre-reform coverage rate for this group was 38 percent, this is a significant increase. Utilization of dental services had also increased by 3.3 percentage points. Finally, the study showed that the ACA policy led to a 2.0 percentage point decrease in the likelihood of this age group experiencing financial barriers to dental care.

Authors Marko Vujicic, PhD, Cassandra Yarbrough, MPP, and Kamyar Nasseh, PhD, examined the impact of the ACA policy on three outcomes: dental benefits coverage, dental care utilization, and financial barriers to dental care. All three authors are researchers with the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. Dr. Vujicic heads the institute.

The ACA medical coverage expansion's effect on dental coverage could slow a trend in recent years that has seen fewer young adults seeking and receiving routine dental care.

ADA President Charles Norman, D.D.S. praised the report.

"Given that the ACA fell far short of what it should have done for adult dental coverage, this at least is encouraging news," he said.

"The fact remains that this segment of the population is just that—only a segment," Dr. Norman said. "Millions of Americans continue to face barriers to dental care, which is why the ADA created Action for Dental Health, a nationwide, community-based movement designed to ensure that everyone, including the most vulnerable among us, have access to the best quality of dental care America's dentists can provide."