Industry onlookers are saying that the voluntary exemption in the Affordable Care Act will do little to improve dental health across the nation as projections point to federal and health exchanges doing little to lower costs for Americans. However, can private dental exchanges and savings plans help to fill this void?

With more than 120 million Americans in need of dental coverage according to data from the National Association of Dental Plans, DentalPlans.com, an exchange that has been in operation since 1999, says that adults will find that stand-alone dental plans will only be available on public exchanges with the purchase of medical insurance plans.

“The ACA does not require adults to be covered for dental services in medical plans,” says Jennifer Stoll, president of DentalPlans.com . “Therefore, adult dental benefits have to be purchased separately, because they are optional under the law.”

Due to the ACA, the NADP explains that about 30 to 40 million will enter the dental plan market while about 10 to 20 million will lose or change their current plans. Because of these expected changes, Stoll says employees can benefit with the savings plan model.

“Purchasing a dental savings plan can help the employee get the oral care they need with savings of 10% to 60% off what they would pay out-of-pocket,” says Stoll.

The American Dental Association said in a recent report that an estimated 5.3 million adults will attain oral health coverage as a result of the ACA. This will reduce the number of adults without dental benefits by about 5%, according to the April 2013 study, which notes that more than 8.7 million children will benefit from the new provisions.

“The ACA is a missed opportunity, and we have a long way to go in ensuring access to oral health for all Americans,” says Dr. Marko Vujicic, managing vice president of the ADA’s Health Policy Resource Centers. “This is especially true for adults, who have experienced greater financial barriers to dental care in recent years.”

Communicating these financial barriers could help employers and employees. DentalPlans.com currently offers plans to employers that start $6.00 per employee/month. For an average family, which includes two adults and two dependent children, families can save $626 on annual ADA recommended treatments, says the dental savings plan retailer.

DentalPlans.com offers more than 30 different plans, which fall under brands like Aetna, Careington, Signature Wellness and UNI-CARE.  

“Since dental care for adults is not a required Essential Health Benefit under the ACA, employers are able to offer savings plans to their employees any time,” Stoll explains. “The plans can be offered completely voluntary with no employer contribution requirement. The employer is able to offer a dental savings plans that are affordable rather than offering nothing at all.”

But can dental health translate into more productive employees?  Stoll says yes. Dental insurance can treat adults in the early stages of bleeding gums, infections and cavities so that employees do not miss work when the pain becomes unbearable.

“Adults miss work due to their own dental illnesses, but also many adults stay home with kids who have to miss school due to toothaches and dental illness as well,” Stoll says.

Moreover, Stoll explains that dental insurance, a missed and often forgotten voluntary option, can become an “added benefit to an employee’s compensation package.”

“Employers experienced enhanced productivity and performance of employees because they could take better care of their own and their families’ oral health,” Stoll explains. “With the recent slowdown in the economy, many employers wonder if they can continue to offer dental benefits to their employees.”

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