Covered California delays dental benefits

Covered California's dental insurance program will be delayed at least until next year because of problems with the health exchange's computer system.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said dental insurance may not be available until 2016, according to a California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting and San Diego Union-Tribune story.

"We do not anticipate there will be adult dental added in 2015. We're looking at that in 2016," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, in the story.

Last fall, exchange officials announced a plan to offer dental coverage for adults and families that could be bought separately from health plans.

Dental policies were expected to be available during the open-enrollment period. Covered California attributed the delay to "challenges in aligning a family dental enrollment" within the existing online registration system.

Dental coverage for patients up to 19 years old is one of the 10 essential health benefits that insurance policies are required to provide under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such benefits are included in health plans offered on the exchange this year and can be subsidized with tax credits depending on an enrollee's income.

Even though Covered California officials called off dental policies for adults this year, five companies were preparing to sell such plans through the exchange, according to the story. That would have allowed consumers to compare those providers' prices compared with rates for dental policies outside of the exchange -- and might have prompted more people to sign up for dental coverage.

Delta Dental, one of the companies that had intended to offer coverage, called the delay a "missed opportunity."

Delta Dental has urged Covered California to offer standalone pediatric and adult dental coverage.

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