How Supreme Court's ACA ruling impacts dentistry

The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision today to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have multiple effects on dentistry and dental care, especially for underserved populations.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured policy brief, the ACA requires insurers to offer dental care for children but not adults, funds national public education programs on preventing oral diseases, and asks for additional funding to expand access to care for people who live in an area with a shortage of dental care providers, PBS "Frontline" reports.

It also calls for multimillion-dollar grants to set up training programs for alternative dental healthcare providers and fund loan repayment programs for dental students.

"[The court's] historic decision ensures that affordable health coverage will be made available to millions of Americans, including nearly 8 million children who will be eligible for dental coverage through the state health insurance exchanges free of annual and lifetime caps," the Children's Dental Health Project stated in a policy update.

However, although the court upheld the ACA's individual mandate to buy insurance, it found that the act could not force states to extend Medicaid to millions by threatening to withhold federal funding, according to an analysis by ProPublica, leaving many wondering if some states will decline to participate in the Medicaid expansion.

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