LANSING — The Ingham Health Plan (IHP) announced today that for the first time the program will offer free or low-cost dental care to its current low-wage-earning members as well as new IHP enrollees in 2015 who qualify financially and lack access to dental care.
IHP, which has provided access to basic health care services and prescription assistance for low-income Ingham County residents since 1998, is partnering with Delta Dental Plan to provide members free access to teeth cleanings, preventive exams, X-rays and fillings with no out-of-pocket expenses.
“A healthy body begins with a healthy mouth,” said Robin Reynolds, IHP executive director. “We are proud to team with Delta Dental in providing this vital service that will improve the quality of life for Ingham County residents who do not have access to dental care.”
IHP is the second county health plan in Michigan to introduce a basic dental care benefit to low-wage earners. The Genesee Health Plan’s partnership with Delta Dental has helped more than 4,000 Genesee County residents obtain dental care since it began in 2014.
The addition of dental care to IHP’s roster of services was made possible by Ingham County voters’ overwhelming approval of the Ingham Health Services millage renewal in November 2014. Voters, by a 70 percent to 30 percent margin, renewed the .52-mill levy that provides an estimated $3.3 million annually for health services, allowing IHP to broaden its offerings.
In addition to free basic dental care, IHP’s Delta Dental Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan will partially cover the costs of crowns, root canals, bridges and dentures. IHP members are responsible for copays for those services that vary depending on the procedure.
“Providing access to basic, medically necessary dental care will help control costs for all Ingham County residents and help boost workforce productivity for local businesses,” said Laura Czelada, CPA, president and CEO, Delta Dental of Michigan.
The Affordable Care Act requires that the new health insurance exchanges offer dental plans for children. While the federal legislation does not require dental coverage for adults, the Healthy Michigan Plan does offer dental coverage for eligible adults. IHP’s plan aims to serve those Ingham County who are not on Medicaid and the elderly who don’t have dental insurance.
The average adult between the ages of 20 and 64 has three or more decayed or missing teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), the nation’s leading oral health authority. Untreated dental disease can lead to serious health problems such as infection, damage to bones or nerves and tooth loss. Dental infections that are left untreated can spread to other parts of the body and, in very rare cases, can be life threatening, the ADA reports.
“The cost of dental care is often cited as a reason patients put off receiving routine dental care, sometimes waiting until they are in extreme pain to seek treatment,” said Karen Burgess, executive director of the Michigan Dental Association.
“What many patients don’t realize is that forgoing regular dental checkups can lead to more costly dental care in the long run,” Burgess said. “And, not only can dental health be adversely affected, but patients may suffer related systemic illnesses that may be worsened by poor oral health. Dentists play a critical role in identifying signs of serious disease such as heart disease and diabetes.”
“As Michigan works to improve the way services are provided in our communities, especially around such important issues as oral health, community-driven health initiatives are becoming increasingly important,” said Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “The IHP-Delta Dental partnership is a wonderful example of a community leveraging its own unique resources to address the health of their residents.”
In exchange for a $20 annual administration fee, the nonprofit Ingham Health Plan pays for basic medical care for low-income workers who earn less than $28,000; are not eligible for Medicaid, the state’s Healthy Michigan plan or federal marketplace insurance; don’t receive health insurance through an employer; or can’t afford to purchase coverage.
The IHP-Delta Dental benefit is also available to Medicare recipients who qualify financially and are unable to pay for dental insurance.
Under the new dental plan, IHP members are eligible to receive care from dentists who are part of the Delta Dental EPO network. A list of Delta Dental EPO dentists in Ingham County is available at 800-870-9988 or http://deltadentalmi.com.