Dental health providers have long been among the most vulnerable to the ACA’s coverage requirements.
As the nation grapples with rising rates of COVID-19, the ACA requires that people with COVIDs have coverage and pay a deductible.
But for many families who can’t afford insurance, the only option is to take their children to a family practice to have them treated, according to The Next Network, which has tracked the rise in visits to family practices across the country.
The law also requires health plans to provide dental care to people who are uninsured or underinsured, and to cover the cost of dental care for children under 12.
“They’re taking a huge hit,” said Susan Zwerneman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and a member of The Next Wave, a network of attorneys representing many dental practices.
Many of these practices are the only options for children in need.
“If we’re able to do this by paying a lot more for health care and by offering more services to kids, we’re actually creating more choices for children,” she said.
But not everyone is happy about the ACA.
Several Texas health care advocacy groups have filed a lawsuit challenging the law, saying it would increase premiums and cause them to lose access to care.
While many of the plans and providers in the lawsuit say they are committed to making health care affordable, many say the law is causing them to close their doors.
According to the group Texans for a Healthy Dentistry, nearly half of the health care practices it surveyed in 2015 had closed their doors because of the ACA, a number that rose to nearly 90 percent in 2016.
Some of the practices, like the Dental Clinic of Texas, the largest of which has 4,000 employees in Austin, say they have lost money and have lost access to patients because they are forced to spend money on administrative costs.
Another group, the Texas Dental Health Association, says it has lost money because of a spike in COVID infections, with more than 5,000 dental practitioners in Texas reporting an increase in COIDS-related infections, according the group’s annual report released earlier this month.
“The cost of treating patients has skyrocketed in the past year,” said Matt Schafer, executive director of Texans for Dental Care.
“Our doctors and dentists are struggling to stay open.”
In February, the Trump administration ordered the states of New York and Massachusetts to implement the ACA coverage requirement for their residents.
Meanwhile, a growing number of health care providers are facing closure.
In Texas, Dr. Richard Coyle, a board-certified pediatrician, has seen his practice in Austin fall apart due to the lack of access to insurance, according a report in the Dallas Morning News.
He said the ACA mandate has created a “chaos” for his practice.
He’s also concerned that if the ACA is passed, he might not be able to provide the care his patients need to stay alive.
Coyle is also concerned about the impact it will have on his staff.
Dr. Jennifer Leach, the director of pediatric care at Dental Academy of Texas Health Sciences, said she is seeing patients who can only afford a few visits to her office each week.
Lechard is worried that if insurance becomes too expensive, she will be unable to keep her patients, who are all women, from seeking care at her practice.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for me to continue to do that for my patients because it’s just going to create an even greater financial burden on me,” Leach said.
“I think the cost is going to increase.”