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Small Business Program Extension and Reform Act of 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. STABENOW. That is correct and I thank the Senator for all his efforts in support of children's dental coverage as well and for this opportunity to clarify the intentions of my amendment. I offered this amendment to allow competition in the marketplace for dental benefits by allowing traditional stand-alone dental plans to participate both in and outside an exchange, just like health plans that provide coverage for medical care. The amendment ensured that stand-alone dental policies may fulfill the requirements of the essential health benefits package when paired with a qualified health plan covering all benefits other than pediatric oral health services within the exchange. To quote directly from the amendment, it indicated that ``required pediatric dental benefits in the non-group and small group markets (in and outside an exchange) may be separately offered and priced from other required health benefits.''

Many American families today receive dental coverage through stand-alone dental plans. Failure to properly implement the amendment as it was intended could result in serious disruptions in the dental coverage these families receive. That is why it is important that we get this right, and I appreciate the opportunity to make this clarification.

Mr. BINGAMAN. I thank the Senator for clarifying this issue.

Also Senator Stabenow and I want to thank the Chairman for working so closely with us and a number of our colleagues to ensure that the Affordable Care Act includes children's oral health care as part of the essential benefits package that health insurers must offer in order to participate in health insurance exchanges. In doing so, we fully recognized that too many children suffer needlessly from dental problems that are overwhelmingly preventable and that oral health is integral to their overall health.

Ms. STABENOW. Yes, I completely agree, Senator Bingaman. In fact our colleagues on the Finance Committee also overwhelmingly agreed that children must have access to oral health care, which is so critical to their overall well-being. We talked about the story of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died from a brain infection caused by tooth decay. He couldn't get access to an $80 dental procedure that would have saved his life. When his condition got worse, he ended up enduring two emergency surgeries, weeks of hospital care, and $250,000 worth of medical bills--but it was all too late. Stories like this remind us of the importance of dental care for children, which is why the pediatric element of the essential health benefits package expressly includes oral care.

Mr. BINGAMAN. Senator Stabenow, I want to be sure that we clarify any confusion about the Finance Committee's intent when we adopted your amendment, C-7, on pediatric dental coverage. As I understand it, the Senator's intent was to ensure that commercial stand-alone dental plans could participate fairly in an exchange. When we adopted the Senator's amendment, we understood that children receiving coverage through an exchange would have the same level of benefits and consumer protections, including all cost sharing and affordability protections, with respect to oral care. This holds true whether they received pediatric oral care coverage from a stand-alone dental plan or from a qualified health plan.

Ms. STABENOW. That is correct, Senator Bingaman, and I thank you for this opportunity to clarify my intentions. The amendment ensured that stand-alone dental policies may fulfill the requirements of the essential health benefits package when paired with a qualified health plan covering all benefits other than pediatric oral health services within the exchange. To be clear, I intended for stand-alone dental plans to fully comply with the same level of relevant consumer protections that are required of qualified health plans with respect to this essential benefit. To quote directly from my modified amendment C-7 that was adopted in committee, ``..... stand-alone dental plans must be allowed to offer the required pediatric dental benefits directly and to offer coverage through the Exchange and must comply with any relevant consumer protections required for participation in the Exchange.''

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