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    The impact of the ACA decision on dental care

    The Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act constitutional.

    The Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act constitutional.

    On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Website, the law puts in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that will roll out over four years and beyond, with most changes taking place by 2014.

    Today, the Supreme Court ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional. SCOTUSblog (Supreme Court of the United States Blog) reports that, in plain English, the Affordable Care Act, which has been commonly been referred to as “Obamacare," including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

    Related: PBS to air Dollars and Dentists

    While the ruling's impact on dental care is still coming into focus, FRONTLINE reports that the ACA requires insurers to offer dental care for children but not adults, funds national public education programs on preventing oral diseases, and asks for additional funding to expand access to care for people who live in an area with a shortage of dental care providers.

    However, although the court upheld the ACA's individual mandate to buy insurance, it found that the act could not force states to extend Medicaid to millions by threatening to withhold federal funding.

    The ACA also will fund national public-education programs on preventing oral diseases, and a program to better educate community-based providers of care, including the Indian Health Service.

    And the law set aside for multimillion-dollar grants to establish training programs for alternative dental health care providers — such as dental hygienists, dental therapists — to boost services in rural areas and other places where people lack access to care. It also allows for grants and loan repayment programs for dental students and other health professionals.

    The American Dental Association has been supportive of the expansion of dental care under the law. But it strongly opposes dental therapists and has lobbied hard to defeat such provisions in state law.

    As analysis continues to unfold and reactions from dental organizations develop, we'll continue to keep you updated.

    Tell us what you think of the decision and how it will impact your practice in the comments section below.