***UPDATED: 11/29/2012*** With the reelection of President Obama, the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, will begin on January 1, 2013. The health care overhaul is sure to affect every branch of medicine, including dentistry. While the advantages of the ACA on oral health are obvious, (i.e. federal funds to help promote dentistry in rural areas and better coverage for children), there is another impact that will likely negatively affect the dentistry world. As part of the new law, starting in January, the IRS will implement a 2.3% tax on all new medical and dental devices, equipment, materials, and supplies. The estimated increase of cost is approximately $160 million annually, which many fear will trickle down to consumers. In order to avoid higher fees for treatment, the American Dental Association is currently working with members of congress to repeal this portion of the bill.
The much anticipated verdict is in, and the United States Supreme Court has upheld the cornerstone of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate, in the largest health care reform our country has seen in over 50 years. The law, which requires almost all Americans to carry health insurance coverage, was found to be constitutional by five justices, mainly because they found it to fall within “Congress’ power under the Constitution to lay and collect taxes.” Americans who choose to ignore the law will be subject to a monetary penalty, viewed as a tax, by the majority of Supreme Court justices. The outcome comes as a surprise to many after the hostility aimed at the law was apparent during six hours of oral arguments heard by the court in March.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have several impacts on the dental care industry nationwide. The largest will most definitely involve the children of our country, which have shown a startling increase in premature tooth decay in recent years. The ACA requires insurance providers to offer dental coverage for children, but does not include adults. It will also make federal funds available for national public education programs geared towards preventing oral diseases, which many experts believe to be the key to putting an end to the growing epidemic of oral disease in our country. It also calls for monetary assistance in setting up training programs for alternative dental providers and loan repayments for dental students. This will ideally address the issue of the shortage of dentists in rural America. A key portion of the law also included the extension of Medicaid programs to millions at the state level, however the Supreme Court found that the ACA could not force states to do so, leaving many questioning if states will choose to participate in the expansion.
Many portions of the ACA have already been implemented, and those that have not, are set to be over the next few years. Health care in America is going to be undergoing significant changes in the near future, allowing some 30 million uninsured citizens the access they need to obtain and maintain a healthy life. The Affordable Care Act may not have been what everyone envisioned for reform, but it will certainly force change in the health care industry, which we all can agree was necessary.
Written by Mark Paulsort
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