From Medicare policy news to the effects of COVID-19 on the industry, FYI brings you the biggest dental policy stories.

1. Dental benefits cut from proposed 2022 Biden spending plan

Dental benefits won’t be paid for through Medicare under the Biden administration’s proposed $1.85 trillion U.S. spending plan, released on October 28. Vision benefits were also cut, while hearing benefits remain as of November 8. The three benefits, part of the original $3.5 trillion plan, were estimated to cost more than $350 billion over a decade. The cut potentially leaves 20 million people who receive Medicare but don’t receive dental benefits without dental coverage.

2. Plan extends Affordable Care Act tax credits through 2025

Biden’s spending plan extends tax credits for insurance purchased on Health Insurance Marketplace exchanges — including dental insurance — through 2025. The extension will help as many as 3 million uninsured people get coverage, according to the White House, and 4 million more may be able to get insurance through state exchanges. The proposed credits, worth approximately $130 billion, are expected to reduce annual premiums for insurance purchased through the ACA by an average of $600 per person.

3. Practices can ask for patient and employee COVID-19 vaccination status, HHS says

Asking whether patients and dental practice employees have received a COVID-19 vaccination doesn’t violate the HIPAA Privacy Rule, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Asking employees to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination is also permitted. Finally, the rule doesn’t prohibit patients or employees from disclosing this information. The rule does limit how practices can use and disclose the vaccination status information they gather, however.

4. Dentistry’s COVID recovery slipping, poll suggests

Dental practices that report their operation as “business as usual” have been declining steadily since July, poll data released October 25 indicates. 

  • Dental practices that reported being both open and having normal patient volume was down to 62% in October from 68% during July.
  • Practices reporting lower-than-average patent volumes has steadily increased, to 37% in October from 31% in July.
  • Approximately 12% of practices reported reducing staff hours in October, and 6% downsized their teams.

5. Fluoride toothpaste added to WHO’s essential drug list

The decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to add several dental medicines, including fluoride toothpaste, to the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines is being hailed as a major achievement for global oral health. The medicines, which also included silver diamine fluoride (SDF) and glass ionomer cement, are the first dental medicines added to the list since 1973. A new section on dental preparation was also added to the list. This action comes after the WHO’s recent resolution on oral health, which calls for a global strategy action plan.