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Opinion: Mandated dental loss ratios will be a financial hardship for Missouri families

A ballot initiative approved by voters in Massachusetts is expected to increase costs and reduce access for families. Now, similar changes are being proposed here in the Show-Me-State.

Studies show that a lack of dental insurance is the number one barrier to receiving dental care, which negatively impacts the overall health of individuals. “Dental Loss Ratios” were approved by voters in Massachusetts in 2022. Effective on January 1, 2024, the new law is predicted to cause a 38% increase in premium rates for small group and individual plans for dental care, according to an independent actuarial study.

In fact, five dental insurers have already announced they will exit the small group employer market in Massachusetts.

Access to dental care is critical for overall health at all ages. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 29 percent of 3rd grade children in the state have untreated tooth decay, which is a top reason that children miss school. In addition, periodontal (gum) disease, caused by poor oral hygiene, can result in pain and tooth loss, and also may increase risk of heart disease or make existing heart conditions worse, according to many sources. Access to quality preventive dental care – which Massachusetts’ new law puts into jeopardy – can help prevent illnesses which can be costly or fatal for Missourians.

Unfortunately, here in Missouri, special interests are seeking dental loss ratio reforms that will likely have similar results. We believe that this East Coast solution is not a good fit for our state. We would encourage our colleagues in the Missouri General Assembly to review this matter and oppose efforts to make it harder for Missourians to have access to dental care.