Abstract [from journal]
Objective: To estimate premium and out-of-pocket costs for child dental care services under various dental coverage options offered within the federally facilitated marketplace.
Study design: We estimated premium and out-of-pocket costs for child dental care services for 12 patient profiles, which vary by dental care use and spending. We did this for 1039 medical plans that include child dental coverage, 2703 medical plans that do not include child dental coverage, and 583 stand-alone dental plans for the 2015 plan year. Our analysis is based on plan data from the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight and Data.HealthCare.Gov.
Results: On average, expected total financial outlays for child dental care services were lower when dental coverage was embedded within a medical plan compared with the alternative of a stand-alone dental plan. The difference, however, in average expected out-of-pocket spending varied significantly for our 12 patient profiles. Older children who are very high users of dental care, for example, have lower expected out-of-pocket costs under a stand-alone dental plan. For the vast majority of other age groups and dental care use profiles, the reverse holds.
Conclusions: Our results show that embedding dental coverage within medical plans, on average, results in lower total financial outlays for child beneficiaries. Although our results are specific to the federally facilitated marketplace, they hold lessons for both state-based marketplaces and the general private health insurance and dental benefits market, as well.