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Tags: dental insurance | biden administration | obamacare | aca

Thanks to Biden, US Insurance Market Takes It in the Teeth

dental tools mirror on a stack of money

Sally Pipes By Tuesday, 18 June 2024 11:41 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

When in doubt, mandate. That has long been one of the unspoken principles guiding the left's approach to health policy. A newly finalized rule from the Biden administration offers a fresh example of this pathology in action.

Starting in 2027, the reform gives states the option of adding coverage for adult dental care as one of the "essential health benefits" plans must cover under Obamacare. If states elect to exercise that option, they'll simply consign their residents to higher insurance costs.

The reasoning behind the new rule is straightforward. Progressives are trying to expand access to dental care. Ordering insurers to cover it seems a logical way to make it easier for people to see the dentist.

But a mandate is not a magic wand. Mandates cost money. If insurers have to cover dental benefits, they'll raise premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs to compensate for the additional expense the state is directing them to incur.

After the federal government began forcing insurers to cover Obamacare's 10 essential health benefits in 2014 — a list which includes substance abuse services and pediatric vision care, among other things — they responded by raising prices. Between 2013 and 2019, average monthly premiums on the individual market more than doubled from $244 to $558, according to a 2021 analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted by Heritage Foundation scholar Edmund Haislmaier.

In attempting to make coverage more generous, in other words, Obamacare made it less affordable — and perhaps less attractive. Some patients presumably don't want or need all of the benefits mandated by the law. Yet they must pay for these benefits anyway.

Biden's "solution" to the soaring price of health coverage has been to disguise the real cost of exchange plans by increasing the share of the premium that taxpayers cover. Today, patients earning up to 150% of the federal poverty level have access to zero-premium coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces.

Obamacare originally cut off taxpayer assistance to those who made more than 400% of poverty — $124,800 for a family of four this year. Through the end of next year, taxpayers will ensure that members of this well-off group devote no more than 8.5% of their income toward premiums.

This mandated generosity on the part of taxpayers isn't cheap. According to a recent Paragon Health Institute analysis of Congressional Budget Office data, Obamacare's subsidies between 2021 and 2030 will be $336 billion more than the agency anticipated in September 2020.

It's bad enough that the Biden administration is spending such mammoth sums of taxpayer cash making Obamacare's dysfunctions less noticeable. But doubling down on the very error that created this problem — namely, a misplaced belief in the power and benignity of mandates — is indefensible.

It might be the case that nearly 70 million Americans — or roughly one in five people — have no dental plan. But they don't lack these benefits because of some oversight by rulemakers in Washington. They lack it, in large part, because government mandates and restrictions have prevented our insurance sector from generating the kinds of products patients both want and can afford.

The Biden administration's new dental health rule simply repeats the very mistake that gave rise to this situation in the first place.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and the Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is "False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All," (Encounter Books 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes. Read Sally Pipes' Reports — More Here.

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The Biden administration's new dental health rule simply repeats the very mistake that gave rise to this situation in the first place.
dental insurance, biden administration, obamacare, aca
Tuesday, 18 June 2024 11:41 AM
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