Obamacare's Negative Sum Economics: Pediatric Dental Care

From CBS

Obamacare forces them to drop many of their plans that don't meet the law's 10 minimum standards, including maternity care, emergency visits, mental health treatment and even pediatric dental care.

For those of you who are on corporate health plans and do not participate in the individual market, here is something that those of us who do so participate learn early:  Unless you are really, really, really adverse to the smallest unpredictability in expenses, don't buy dental coverage.

The reason is that for the vast, vast majority of people, dental costs are entirely predictable.  Let's say for the average person they are X per year.  For most people, the costs don't vary very far from X.   While certain dental procedures can be expensive (and remember, dental plans do not cover orthodonture), they are seldom if ever catastrophically expensive.  Few people have been bankrupted by an insurable dental problem.  This is particularly true in kids with pediatric dental care.

So for most people, dental insurance is just pre-paid care.  All it does is add cost.  There is no free lunch.  The insurance company knows your costs are likely to be X.  So they are going to charge you X + a markup.  Actually, it is worse than this.  Because I pay cash, I get a lower price from the dentist.  So in fact with dental insurance you are paying X + dentist insurance markup + insurance company markup.  All this does is add costs.  I have happily paid my kids' dental costs out of pocket their entire life and have saved a fortune over what 18 years of pediatric dental care would have cost.

But now, courtesy of Obamacare, we are forced by law to buy this unnecessarily expensive product.

  • S

    I continue to get the dental plan through my employer because they pay enough of the cost that it *is* worth it when I run the numbers (I average 2 fillings a year despite taking good care of my teeth).

    That said, when I had about $5k in dental costs in one year (dental implant and associated crown, although with a couple of cavities filled), insurance paid for less than $1k of that, since they only cover bridges and not implants (a bridge would have trashed the adjacent healthy teeth to put crowns on them, and was a horrible idea given my age and health). Even if they had covered implants, the most they'll pay in a year is $2000. If I actually had to pay the full cost of that plan, there's no way I would get it.

  • John Kranz

    You hate children's teeth . . .

  • DMK

    I once was paying dental costs out-of-pocket but ended up paying more as a cash customer because insurers had negotiated much lower rates, apparently. The dental office business manager gave me a clueless look when I tried to question the situation, including pointing out that there would be no insurer paperwork to do, instant payment, certainty of payment, etc. So it didn't pay to be on the responsible side of this issue. Frustrating.

  • http://matthewjudebrown.com/ Morven

    Yes; often those of us with employer-subsidized healthcare find that the solution that's almost certainly more expensive in total is cheaper for us, since our employers won't give us the cash value equivalent in pay if we forego it. It's a pot of money that will only go toward subsidized care. I'm not going to turn down things that save me money, no matter how nonsensical they are in total.

  • Undisclosed

    I believe it is a well-understood central tenet of the Democratic platform that forcing a third party to sign the check for anything makes it "free."

  • irandom419

    My employer subsidizes it so much, it costs more overall to pay cash.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jelly.andrews.7 Jelly Andrews

    Dental care is really quite expensive. Even if it is a must
    to care for the teeth, it is still an expense the public are getting hard to
    pay for. And with the advent of Obamacare, it is really a mandatory to pay for
    it.

    Dental-Mart.com