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What will PPACA do to the dental market?

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The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) could create a new divide between consumers who have high-end dental coverage and consumers who have bare-bones dental coverage, or no dental coverage at all.

The National Association of Dental Plans has published data supporting that possibility in a summary of results from a recent survey of 3,044 consumers.

The NADP, a group that represents dental carriers and dental discount program managers, added questions about PPACA and proposed federal policy changes to its usual annual survey program.

The NADP analysts found that 61 percent of the consumers surveyed said they now have some kind of dental coverage, and that 53 percent had visited the dentist within the past 6 months.

Observers have suggested that PPACA could shake up the group dental by encouraging small employers to drop health benefits programs and send employees to buy individual coverage on a guaranteed-issue, community-rated basis through the new PPACA exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets.

Federal budget policy specialists who are worried about the size of the federal budget deficit have suggested that the government should eliminate many income tax deductions, including the deduction for employer-sponsored health benefits.

The NADP took these scenarios into account by asking consumers in small group dental plans what they would do if the plans were eliminated.

Only 16 percent of the participants said they would be “very likely” to buy coverage, and 39 percent said they would be “likely” to buy coverage. About 22 percent said they would be “unlikely” to buy coverage.

When the NADP asked the participants who would be likely to buy replacement dental coverage about the type of coverage they would choose, 65 percent said they would get a lower-priced, preventative care plan.

Just 35 percent said they would buy a higher-priced plan that provided coverage for major care. 

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