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Covered California: Dental care coverage

Health insurance is going to change for millions of Californians. Will there be more access to dental coverage?
October 8, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
We know health insurance is going to change for millions of Southern Californians. Will there be more access to dental coverage?Covered California: What you need to know

The new laws provide for children. But how much will it cost and how do you get it? The biggest draw at most free health care fairs are screenings for dental care. That's because so many Californians don't carry dental coverage. Under the Covered California plans, that may change for some people.

At the Kids Community Dental Clinic in Burbank, business is booming. Volunteer dentists and hygienists offer free care to kids who don't have dental coverage. Last year, Dr Richard Marias says the center saw more than 3,000 patients.

"Historically every year that we have been in operation, we see more and more patients," said Dr. Marias.

And he's not sure much is going to change when health insurance plans purchased through our state's healthcare exchange, Covered California, take effect next year.

"It will improve, but probably by just a small amount," said Dr. Marias.

Southern Californians logging onto Covered California will find five different companies offering pediatric dental plans, but they'll have to be purchased separately.

"The premiums for pediatric dental are as low as $8 in many cases," said Dana Howard, a Covered California spokesman.

As for dental coverage for adults? It's not available, although it may be part of the exchange in the future.

"We really want them to have vision and dental coverage for adults as well. However right now it simply cannot be done," said Howard.

What can adults do now? There are some options to save money on dental care. For example, there's Brighter.com.

The company describes itself as a "free alternative to dental insurance." Brighter.com negotiates deals with local dentists, and in return brings them new patients.

You choose a local dentist and look at the prices each offers for the service you want.

The company says many in Los Angeles have saved an average of 50 percent on things like tooth cleanings, fillings, even braces.

The Affordable Care Act requires offering dental care for kids. But families won't be required to buy the dental plans. That's why Dr. Marias feels the need for free pediatric dental services won't be going away anytime soon.

"We'll be here, because whether there's coverage or not, there's a need here," said Dr. Marias.

Two more tips from the experts to help save money on dental care: One, seek out dental schools. They often provide procedures supervised by professional instructors for half the price of private care. Two, negotiate with your dentist and space out a procedure, if possible, to work out a payment plan.

Covered California: What you need to know

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