Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Exclusion of pediatric dental care from health care plans could make it more expensive

Anthem Blue Cross Rate Hike

Rich Pedroncelli/AP

State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is fighting a decision to exclude pediatric dental care from the insurance policies that will be sold through Covered California.

California’s Insurance Commissioner wants the state’s new health care exchange to include dental care for kids as a primary benefit in plans that will be sold to the public next year.   

The board of Covered California, the agency that is managing the health care exchange, recently decided to exclude that service from the plans, and offer it in a separate policy. People who purchase their health care insurance plan through Covered California will have to pay extra for a separate dental plan for their children.

Insurance commissioner Dave Jones warns that not including dental coverage as an essential benefit could cost consumers more.

In a June 27th letter to the board that runs Covered California, Jones wrote that he spoke with insurers who submitted bids to sell their products on the state’s exchange next year.  Those health plans included dental care for children in the package of benefits, but Covered California told them to strip it out. 

Jones urged the board to reverse the decision" “A child’s overall health and well-being requires access to dental care to ensure oral health.”

Deputy Commissioner Janice Rocco said one large health insurer selling plans on the exchange planned to offer the embedded product for $6 a month, but will now charge $26 a month for a separate product. 

Dana Howard, a spokesman for Covered California, said the exchange is following federal law, which does not require plans to include dental coverage for children.  Excluding the coverage keeps premium costs down, he acknowledged, but says that's not why they severed it.

The decision to separate pediatric dentistry from health care was made "to provide more options for the families, to have a stand alone plan, so they can have a broader choice of the networks or the plans that they wish to have cover their children.”

Howard says the board will consider Jones' request, "but before we do all that you have to look at the reason why people don’t buy dental insurance for their children, and we believe we’ve answered that problem.”

On Monday, Covered California announced it will offer nine dental plans for kids that range in price from $8 -$35 a month. 

The six companies that will offer the plans in Southern California are Anthem Dental, Blue Shield of California, Delta Dental of California, Health Net Dental, LIBERTY  Dental Plan and Premier Access Dental.



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