About six weeks ago, when I talked to Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans and Jeff Album, vice president of public and government affairs for Delta Dental of Calif., N.Y., Pa., and affiliates, they both were definitely concerned about aspects of H.R. 3200, the House’s health care reform bill.

In an October report in EBN, the two detail the dental-related problem with H.R. 3200, specifically, that it would require that essential benefits (including dental coverage for children) offered through the proposed health insurance exchange must be bundled - grouping medical and children's dental health together - and only be sold through a medical insurer. After five years, the same requirements would be set for essential benefits sold outside the exchange. Stand-alone dental insurers - which, according to NADP, serve 97% of the estimated 174 million Americans with dental health coverage - would not be permitted to offer their plans through the exchange.

"Health care reform is not directed at dental, but by trying to do a good thing - covering children's dental and vision care - Congress is unraveling the dental benefits market for family coverage," Ireland asserts. This is because the bundling requirement applies only to children's dental coverage. Under H.R. 3200, coverage for their parents is another matter entirely. Yet, most dental policies are for family coverage.

However, Album gave me a call yesterday, to let me know he and other stand-alone dental advocates are encouraged that the Senate Finance Committee (although rejecting the public option) accepted from Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) an amendment to its health care reform bill that would “alleviate bundling from being a problem.”

That’s not to say he and other dental leaders are ready to relax. Lawmakers “still need to blend bills in the House and Senate and the issue still needs to be addressed on the House side," Album said. "There are no guarantees, but we are encouraged.”

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