The Oral Health Implications of Healthcare Reform

The U.S. House of Representatives (in a close vote, details on CNN) passed a Healthcare Reform (HCR) bill late Saturday evening.  While all of us, I’m pretty sure, are concerned about fellow citizens who have no medical coverage, Northeast Delta Dental and folks involved in oral health coalitions want to be sure that oral health continues to be delivered via the current system that works (dental is prevention based; involves the patient talking about treatment with her/his dentist; dentists and patients are generally happy).   The problem with the House version of the HCR bill is that it does not enable stand-alone dental carriers, such as Northeast Delta Dental, to operate in the Public Option/The Exchange, which would leave excellent Delta Dental companies out of that market.  This would be a shame, because the Delta Dental delivery system works very well now.   The Senate Finance version of their HCR debate would enable dental only carriers to participate in the Public Option/The Exchange, so, hopefully in conference, the House and Senate work this issue out.   What do you think?   Tom Raffio, CEO/Northeast Delta Dental

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7 Responses to The Oral Health Implications of Healthcare Reform

  1. Chris says:

    I think stand-alone dental insurance companies should be allowed to participate in the “co-op.” If they were not allowed to, they’d be squeezed out of the market by medical insurance companies who have dental plans.

    As much as I may want to see coverage extended to all Americans, I’m not entirely sure that a public option is the way to go. the PO has the possibility (I say that as we don’t know) of causing serious harm to the private sector insurance companies. With the economy the way it is, and the possibility of a government-run program pricing companies out, I see a huge potential for massive job loss.

    The other fear I have is that “cheap” doesn’t nececssarily mean “quality.” Northeast Delta Dental’s plans may not be the cheapest plans around, but you certainly get what you pay for: quality dental care, provided by a renowned company. I’m not so sure that a government option would provide the same types of guaruntees that private companies (Northeast Delta Dental especially) do.

    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Chris,

      Well-said! And building on your second paragraph, the more employers who might drop medical/dental coverage and have their employees go into the Public Option, the more expensive private health coverage becomes because current government run programs generally do not pay the full fees that hospitals/physicians/dentists charge and probably that will be the case for the Public Option. This exacerbates the cost shifting to private insurance.
      Thanks for dialoguing with me Chris and thanks for your insights and feedback. What do other folks think?

  2. Joe Unix says:


    Health, Liberty, and
    the Pursuit of Happiness.
    What’s life without health?

    Weak health; weak Nation.
    Who says “health is an option?”
    We spend anyway.

    Public or private–
    quality needn’t cost more;
    it’s often cheaper.

    Private IS better.
    Let’s solve the problem, shall we?
    Where would you start, Tom?


    • tomraffio says:

      Hi Joe Unix,

      Where would I start:

      Proactive wellness programs by all employers, to give employees the opportunity to be physically fit. We have many programs at Northeast Delta Dental (running and walking groups; aerobics; yoga; tai chi etc.), fresh fruit — all things that don’t cost a lot.

      The second thing is to educate and spread the facts, not sound bites. So, for example, while there may be 46 or 47 million people in the U.S. without medical coverage, a significant percentage of these citizens do it by choice (e.g, they opt out of their employer’s group program to get cash or to save on an employee contribution), even though they could afford the coverage. We need facts and reasonable suggestions, not ad hominen arguments. Also, as a famous person once said, and I paraphrase, simple solutions to complex issues (such as health care) are usually wrong. And you are correct, Quality is less expensive because true Quality results in no or little re-work. Hope this helps Joe. Tom R.

      • Joe Unix says:

        So, facts, not sound bites;
        education and wellness;
        beware quick answers.

        What you write is true,
        but what of the self-employed?
        Health care’s expensive.

        What of small business
        struggling to make each dollar–
        How to pay for health?

        A thorny problem
        with no simple solution.
        Can’t afford stasis.

        Joe Unix

      • tomraffio says:

        Hi Joe Unix,

        I think no one wants the status quo, but I’m hoping we don’t throw the baby (the good aspects of the current health care delivery system) out with the bath water, to be somewhat lyrical per your style. Dr. Syl Dupuis is fond of saying : we really can only have 2 out of 3 of the following: high quality; unlimited access; low cost. For example, if we want a lower cost health care system, access or quality is bound to suffer. If we want the highest quality and unlimited access, the system won’t be low cost. So, paying for the system does require some prioritization and trade offs, or as you say, a thorny problem with no simple solution. Hope this helps. tr

  3. Hiya Tom,

    You write

    > we really can only have 2 out of 3 of the following:
    > high quality; unlimited access; low cost.

    While this is true, it’s relevant that the inverse is not true. We can easily have low quality, limited access, and high cost, which some would argue is exactly what we have now. Improving even one of the three would be a huge step. Improving *two* of the three would be nearly Herculean.

    Since we already have high cost, going for high quality and unlimited access would be a winner, I think.

    Kind regards,


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