Thousands of California adults are signing up for dental insurance offered for the first time by Covered California, the state’s Obamacare marketplace, officials said Wednesday.
About 33,000 adults have signed up for the dental plans, including about 6,000 who also are signing up for health insurance on the marketplace for the first time, said Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director.
While dental coverage for children under age 19 is considered an essential benefit under the Affordable Care Act and is included in their health insurance plans, that’s not the case for adults. Most of the nation’s state-run health exchanges now offer separate dental plans serving adults and the federally run exchange, healthcare.gov, also offers adult dental coverage.
Covered California is the second to last among the state-run exchanges to offer dental coverage for adults, said Jeff Album, a Delta Dental executive. Now only Washington state does not offer it.
In California, adults must purchase a health plan on Covered California to be able to purchase an “add-on” dental policy, and they’ll pay monthly premiums ranging from $11 to $65, Lee said. These premiums are not subsidized like Covered California’s health premiums for lower-income people, but the dental plans can’t turn anyone away because of pre-existing conditions.
The dental plans are optional, and there’s no tax penalty for not enrolling in them.
Open enrollment for Covered California health and dental plans started Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31, and people who sign up by Dec. 15 can have their benefits start on Jan. 1. Lee said Wednesday that 34,000 new consumers had selected a health insurance plan through the exchange since open enrollment began.
About 1.3 million Californians, including about 66,000 ages 18 or younger, already had health insurance through the exchange before open enrollment started.
Five insurers are offering dental plans on Covered California:
- Access Dental Plan
- Anthem Blue Cross of California
- Delta Dental of California
- Dental Health Services
- Premier Access
The majority of people signed up so far — 23,000 of 33,000 overall — have chosen Delta Dental, Album said.
All of the plans will offer free preventive and diagnostic dental services for both adults and children. Consumers can choose from dental health maintenance organizations, which typically cost less but have more restricted networks of dentists, or dental preferred provider organizations, which offer more choice but higher out-of-pocket costs.
A note to parents: You do not have to enroll your children in a family dental plan, because children’s dental coverage is already included in their health plan. Still, some parents choose to do so to gain extra coverage.
Dr. Ariane Terlet, a Berkeley dentist who serves as chief dental officer for Oakland-based La Clinica de la Raza and as a trustee for the California Dental Association, said that people without dental insurance are four times more likely not to get preventive care. Many Californians have found it difficult to buy dental coverage on the individual market, she added, and the new availability of Covered California’s dental plans expands access to care.
“There isn’t a week that goes by where people don’t ask me what dental coverage is available for individuals,” Terlet said. “Having insurance is a critical step to improving dental care. This is really going to help a lot of people improve their health.”