Dentistry and Health Care

As of April 2023, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is still active.

What is the Affordable Care Act?

The comprehensive healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or sometimes called “Obamacare” was initiated by President Barack Obama in 2010.

The law has 3 primary goals:

  • Make affordable health insurance available to more people. The law provides consumers with subsidies (“premium tax credits”) that lower costs for households with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level  (FPL).
  • Expand the Medicaid program to cover all adults with income below 138% of the FPL. (Not all states have expanded their Medicaid programs.)
  • Support innovative medical care delivery methods designed to lower the costs of health care generally.

Originally, the ACA required every US resident to purchase a healthcare plan, and those without an insurance plan were subject to a tax penalty. Anyone unable to afford healthcare was offered assistance by the federal government.

In 2019, President Trump reduced the tax penalty for not having health insurance to $0, so individuals without a health insurance plan will not receive a fine in most states.

Why does it matter?

Many patients are able to afford dental care because of the Affordable Care Act through Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid is the single largest source of health coverage in the United States. It is a joint program on both the federal and state level that provides health coverage for over 85.2 million people in the US. There are certain groups of individuals mandated by the federal government that states must cover. However, states also have the option to cover additional groups of people. This is called expanding Medicaid coverage.

The ACA created the opportunity for states to expand Medicaid to cover children, nearly all low-income US citizens under age 65, and adults with income at or below 133% of the federal poverty line.

The ACA included features specifically affecting oral health:

  • Required every state’s Medicaid to include pediatric coverage
  • Required health care exchanges to offer pediatric dental benefits
  • Expanded dependent coverage has been shown to improve affordability of dental care for young adults.

ASDA Policies

ASDA’s E-12 policy encourages all U.S. CODA-accredited dental schools to accept Medicaid at their respective clinics. 

ASDA’s H-2 policy supports evidence-based measures that are efficacious and sustainable in reducing barriers to care in underserved communities. These measures include, but are not limited to, early intervention, Medicaid expansion and co-location of health services.

What has ASDA done?

Students and dentists have lobbied members of Congress in support of bills addressing health care reform at ASDA and the ADA’s annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.

  • The Medicaid Dental Benefit Act. This bill would require comprehensive dental care for adults to be part of all state Medicaid programs. ASDA lobbied for this bill at Lobby Day 2022 and 2023.
    In July 2022, ASDA signed onto a letter to Senate and House leaders in support of this bill.
Want to show your support for this bill? Make your voice heard by sending a letter to your legislator today via ASDA Action.
  • Releasing funding from the CARES Act On April 17, 2020, ASDA, along with over 50 other dental organizations signed on to a letter requesting that the Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provide immediate access to capital by releasing funding from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to dentists that are Medicaid providers.
  • Principles in health care reform legislation. in 2019, ASDA lobbied for specific principles to be included in health care reform legislation. Attendees encouraged lawmakers to preserve certain Medicaid benefits that would assure oral health services for children and allow states to preserve adult dental benefits under Medicaid if they choose.

ASDA Resources