Guest Column: Consider your family’s oral health during open enrollment

By Bernie Glossy
CEO of Delta Dental of Illinois

Nov. 15, the open enrollment period will begin under the Affordable Care Act, giving Illinois residents an opportunity to shop for health care coverage that could have a major impact on their physical and financial health in 2015. Whether you are already covered or are looking for the first time, it is important to evaluate the available options and remember not to overlook dental coverage for your family’s oral health.

Although dental disease is largely preventable, it still finds its way into the mouths of our state’s residents and is actually the most common chronic childhood disease today.1 In fact, by third grade, more than 50 percent of Illinois children have cavities.2 Alarmingly, many are left untreated, which can affect a child’s ability to learn, speak and eat.

Fortunately, dental coverage for children is an essential health benefit under the Affordable Care Act. This means that if you have a child younger than 19 and purchase a health care plan, pediatric dental coverage will be included.

However, health plans are not required to offer adult dental coverage, but you should strongly consider its importance. Nearly one in four Illinois adults has unresolved oral health issues, and nearly three in five say the biggest reason for not addressing a problem is the ability to pay for care, according to a survey by Delta Dental of Illinois.3

Serious oral health problems can be expensive and time-consuming to treat. But the fact is that dental coverage is relatively low cost, and because it is prevention-based, it actually encourages regular dental checkups that can save money in the long run. Nearly eight of 10 Illinoisans with dental coverage visit the dentist at least once a year versus a little more than half who don’t have coverage.3

Seeking preventive oral health care, like checkups and cleanings, can be far less expensive than receiving costly treatments down the road. Plus, oral health is linked to your overall health, and a dental exam can help you protect your overall health. During a checkup, your dentist can detect as many as 120 different diseases in their earliest stages, when they are most effectively and cost-efficiently treated.4

Studies also suggest that the state of your oral health can affect other health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. The mouth is a key part of the body, and good dental habits such as brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist contribute to better oral and overall health.

These are just some of the reasons why it is important for you and your entire family to have dental coverage that encourages regular dental visits.

On the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace, it is possible to purchase pediatric and adult dental benefits through a medical carrier or from a stand-alone dental benefits carrier. Many Illinois residents choose stand-alone dental benefit plans because of the likelihood their dentist is in-network and the overall value they provide. For example, since many medical plans may require the policy’s annual deductible and out-of-pocket maximums be met before paying dental benefits, a stand-alone dental policy may expand benefits and reduce overall expenses.

Along with dental coverage for individuals and families, most dental benefit carriers also now offer dental plans for small businesses off-exchange that are compliant with new Affordable Care Act guidelines.

Choosing health care coverage is one of the most important decisions you will make this year. Therefore, it is essential that you fully understand your options during open enrollment so you can choose benefits that are best for you and your family. For more information or to select a dental plan that helps your entire family maintain great oral health, visit GetCoveredIllinois.gov or DeltaDentalIL.me.

Sources:

1. Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, 2000.

2. Illinois Department of Public Health, Healthy Smile Healthy Growth Assessment, 2008-2009.

3. Delta Dental of Illinois Oral Health and Well-Being Survey, 2013.

4. Steven L. Bricker, Robert P. Langlais, and Craig S. Miller, Oral Diagnosis, Oral Medicine and Treatment Planning (Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger, 1994).

Posted Nov. 5, 2014

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