Families struggle with dental care as government help dwindles

Many Americans have trouble affording dental care. Depending on what type of insurance they have or what state they live in, low to middle income people feel they have to go without dental care altogether.

If a person has private dental insurance, many patients have a difficult time paying their share. Medicaid patients have a hard time finding dentists who will take their insurance, according to Pew.

Another barrier to dental care for low-income adults is the relatively low reimbursement rates offered by state Medicaid programs. Extensive paperwork and oversight also limit the number of dentists willing to take Medicaid patients. (The ACA calls for even more intensive oversight and audits.) The result is poor access to preventive care for low-income people on Medicaid in much of the country, ultimately resulting in higher overall costs.

At least state laws require Medicaid and private dental insurers to provide coverage for children. Most states however, leave adults to fend for themselves. California, Virginia, South Carolina and Indiana are extending some additional dental coverage for adults.

Dental coverage through Medicaid has a poor history at best. Medicaid dental coverage is not the only coverage that is struggling to keep Americans healthy, Pew opines.

The problem is not limited to Medicaid. Most employer-sponsored insurance pays for only a portion of the cost of an annual checkup and a few fillings. For moderate-income people who need more extensive restorative work, out-of-pocket expenses can be unaffordable. In a recent survey, nearly four out of 10 respondents said they or a family member had put off seeing a dentist because of concerns about out-of-pocket expenses.

If people have dental problems without proper coverage they tend to delay dental card until it becomes an emergency. Once it is an emergency they go to the emergency room. Most ERs aren't properly equipped to treat dental emergencies so they just treat the pain without treating what caused the pain. The end result is the patients problem still exists while costing them more money.

The struggle for states to provide adequate adult dental care rolls on. Some states are starting to "get it" and realize it costs them more if patients use emergency rooms for dental care. Some insurances are starting to include dental care in their lower priced packages. Other states are expanding coverages to some adult dental care.

Until people can afford preventative dental care, the problem of getting people proper care will continue.