Two key bills to ensure affordable dental coverage

By: Meg Booth

Oral health advocates have worked with Congress over the last 15 years to extend dental coverage to all children, but much work remains to ensure that this coverage is stable and affordable for families. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) — two of oral health's strongest supporters — have introduced two bills essential to optimizing the availability and affordability of health (including dental) coverage for working families.

CHIP Funding: Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expires in just 15 months. Sen. Rockefeller introduced S. 2461, “The CHIP Extension Act of 2014,” yesterday to extend funding for the CHIP program for another four years.  Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), CHIP was authorized until 2019 but only funded through September 30, 2015, making Rockefeller’s bill necessary and crucial to ensure that the 8 million children now (and 10 million expected by 2015) continue to receive medical and dental benefits through CHIP.

While Sen. Rockefeller’s primary goal is to extend CHIP’s funding, his bill also makes a few modest (but welcome) improvements by giving states additional incentives to improve their programs. States will have a number of additional areas in which they can receive “performance incentive” bonus payments, including two dental options. States will be eligible for bonus payments if they:

  • offer supplemental dental coverage to kids who are dentally uninsured or underinsured; and
  • provide dental coverage for pregnant women enrolled through CHIP.

In addition, the bill requires that dental costs (in addition to medical costs) be tracked to ensure that a family does not exceed the 5% income cost-sharing limit.

Fixing the Family Glitch: On June 5, Sen. Franken introduced S. 2434, the “Family Coverage Act,” which is designed to address the “family glitch” — a misinterpretation of the intent of the ACA. His legislation clarifies the ACA’s rules by requiring the IRS to calculate the affordability of family coverage by comparing the costs of coverage for the whole family (not simply the individual employee) against the family income. If the coverage is not affordable, the family members would be eligible for consideration of subsidies in the health care marketplace.

Together, these measures take significant steps towards ensuring affordable coverage for working families. Please urge Congress to enact these bills this year.

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52% }
of new military recruits couldn't be deployed because of dental problems.
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