Covered California adds dental coverage for adults

2014 08 26 15 53 51 145 Covered California Logo 200

Covered California, the state's health insurance marketplace, has added dental coverage for adults, and more than 33,000 people have already signed up. The new coverage goes into effect in 2016 and is an optional add-on benefit.

Children younger than 19 years of age are already covered for dental insurance if they have health insurance through Covered California, but this is the first time enrollees can choose to purchase comprehensive family plans that cover both children and adults. So far, 15% of those renewing their insurance and first-time enrollees have signed up for the optional adult dental coverage, substantially higher than Covered California officials expected.

"Often seeing a dentist is a gateway to getting other types of health services," said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, at a press conference. "We know that adding dental matters."

What does more coverage mean for dentists?

Enrollees can choose between Access Dental Plan, Anthem Blue Cross, Delta Dental of California, Dental Health Services, and Premiere Access for their dental plan. The plans range from $11 to $65 per month.

A priority for Covered California is that it has a broad provider network, ensuring all Californians had a dentist in their area, whether they lived in Los Angeles or a remote part of the state, Lee said.

"We do think it's important that when you look across the state, there's options in every part of California. ... We are giving choice to Californians," he said. "I want to thank the dental plans that rose to the challenge."

“We believe we will have tens of thousands of individuals sign up, which means general dental practices will have more people with coverage.”
— Peter Lee, executive director, Covered California

The "vast majority" of California dentists are enrolled in at least one of the dental plans offered through the health insurance marketplace, according to Lee, although he could not provide a specific number or percent at the time of the press conference. Therefore, general dentists can expect to see more people with insurance.

"We believe we will have tens of thousands of individuals sign up, which means general dental practices will have more people with coverage," Lee said. When general dentists see a patient without insurance, they can talk to them about Covered California's new benefits, he noted.

The addition of adult dental coverage is good news for Ariane Terlet, DDS, chief dental officer at La Clínica de la Raza and a private practice dentist in Berkeley, who also spoke at the press conference. When people come into her practice with dental conditions that could have been prevented, they often cite a lack of dental coverage, she said.

"Access to dental care improves when Californians have dental coverage," Dr. Terlet said. "It's great that patients will be able to improve overall and oral health."

Making enrollment easy for Californians

The Covered California website makes it easy to see what plans are available in enrollees' neighborhoods. While health insurance providers are categorized according to region, dental insurance is grouped according to ZIP code, Lee explained.

"If you put in your ZIP code, it tells you exactly what plans are available to you," he said.

Each plan also offers the same type of coverage, which is part of an effort to make the benefits standardized, according to Lee. Standardized coverage can help enrollees compare plans "apples to apples," he said.

However, adult dental coverage can only be added if the enrollees purchase a health plan, which does not help adults who already get medical benefits through an employer or other means. Covered California's open enrollment and renewal period began on October 12, 2015, and continues through January 31, 2016.

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