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Missing Teeth – The Odd Isolation of Dental Insurance

August 22, 2023

Summary: Our favorite absurdity-revealing ophthalmologist comedian again sinks his teeth into our health insurance morass.

Glaucomflecken Explains: What’s So Special About Teeth?
Dr. Glaucomflecken
video, 2 minutes

The American Dental Association (ADA) successfully resisted participating in Medicare in the 1960s. Today, medical insurance has an out-of-pocket maximum for policyholders, whereas with dental insurance the maximum is for the insurer. Also, eye care insurance is separated from vision care. It doesn’t make any sense. That’s US healthcare in a nutshell. We make things way more complicated than they need to be.

Comment by: Jim Kahn

I adore Dr. Glaucomflecken … always brief, funny, and laser-like to the essence of an issue.

My experience as a patient, and discussions with my dentist, suggest that one major dental insurer (Delta) is steadily ratcheting down coverage. Fewer procedures covered, with higher copays, and annual benefit limits reached more quickly. Lower payments for providers, I’m told. It would be far cheaper to travel to another country and pay full out of pocket. I’m beginning to wonder about the value proposition of having dental insurance.

Guess what? Dental (and vision) care would be entirely covered under single payer. Full payment just like for medical care. That’s a version of “one size fits all” that everyone can endorse!

About the Commentator, Jim Kahn

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Jim (James G.) Kahn, MD, MPH (editor) is an Emeritus Professor of Health Policy, Epidemiology, and Global Health at the University of California, San Francisco. His work focuses on the cost and effectiveness of prevention and treatment interventions in low and middle income countries, and on single payer economics in the U.S. He has studied, advocated, and educated on single payer since the 1994 campaign for Prop 186 in California, including two years as chair of Physicians for a National Health Program California.

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