Opinion | Michigan dental patients deserve better than Medicare for All

Jan Miller

Janet Miller is the immediate past president of Michigan Dental Hygienists Association (MDHA)

At a recent Detroit Economic Club forum, Scott Serota, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, spoke extensively about the state of health care in America as well as its future, including how we can make it more affordable while continuing to encourage innovation. When asked about the 2020 elections and how he would advise potential candidates crafting a workable health care policy, Serota said, “I’m a big believer in building on what works, and not just tearing things up for the sake of tearing things up.” 

Having just served as president of the Michigan Dental Hygienists Association, I found these words resonated with me, particularly given the onslaught of radical health care proposals we have seen in the past several months from Democratic presidential candidates. While these proposals may vary in size and scope, they would all only serve to undermine our current health care system. We should instead be working to build on and improve the current system. This would have a particularly harmful impact on oral health care—here in Michigan and across the country. 

Whether it is Medicare for All or a Medicare buy-in, a public option or single-payer system, any one of these government-run health care insurance proposals would create a one-size-fits-all system that could threaten access and affordability in dental care.

Dental health care professionals detect, diagnose and treat major oral diseases and conditions that can have a direct impact on a patient’s long-term health. Through immediate and preventative care, we contribute to lowering overall health care costs.  However, and across the country, access, affordability, and coverage already act as major hurdles to proper dental care for too many families. I fear that the Medicare for All proposals currently under consideration in Congress—and similar plans being touted by various presidential candidates—could make things much worse.

A government-controlled health care system would undercut the ability of private and employer-sponsored coverage to compete in what would be a highly skewed marketplace. As these plans struggle—and fail—Michiganders and all Americans would gradually see their options reduced until only the government-run plan remains. Moreover, taxes would inevitably have to rise to cover the costs of such a massive government program. That’s why we still have yet to hear a solid answer from any candidate as to how their various proposals would be funded.

Certainly, there is still much work to be done to improve health care in America. But as Serota said in his address to the Detroit Economic Club, “Were I advising any of the candidates, I would say we spent, as a nation, a long time working on, debating and implementing the Affordable Care Act, and I would build on its successes.” Instead of threatening our entire health care system, let’s work to improve access, lower costs and increase coverage without disrupting the care or coverage that more than 90 percent of Americans enjoy today.

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Tue, 10/15/2019 - 8:44am

So, what is her suggestion on improving access to and affordability of dental care? Did I miss it somewhere in this rambling piece full of republican talking points? She does not offer one solid solution of her own. Nor does she include a solution provided by Serota, which is whom she based this entire op-ed piece on. Sad!

Ed of Grand Blanc
Wed, 10/16/2019 - 2:24pm

You are right. Unfortunately both parties are clueless and never offer details. Most politicians have great health care insurance (taxpayer paid) and do not know much about what all of us have. As a big picture I am a believer in dental hygiene being extremely important to overall health. Unfortunately Medicare DOES NOT cover Dental (or eyes or drugs). The advantage plans cover some dental but vary extensively.

Richard Schultz
Thu, 10/17/2019 - 10:51pm

Medicare For All is not Medicare. It would cover dental, vision, and hearing aids. Because teeth should not be called "luxury bones".

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 9:07am

In response to Janet Miller’s piece I would suggest that it sounds like a defense of monied interests benefits of a broken existing system that financially benefits the groups she represents. It doesn’t at all deal with the deficiencies in the current system of dental practices nor does it address the inadequate coverage available to a significant portion of the state’s population. I understand her duty as a member of an organization created to protect and defend the dental profession but I would advise readers to take that into consideration when reading the piece. Her job is not to represent patients but to defend the profession

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 12:48pm

Excellent comment!

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 9:12am

Yes, the private and workplace plans would struggle, and fail, against an expanded and improved Medicare for All because only Medicare for All offers complete dental coverage with $0 copays, deductibles, and premiums. No medically necessary services would be excluded, unlike under our current system of for-profit policies and insufficient medicare which does not fully cover dental work, even for seniors. The average tax cost to pay for Medicare for All, again, with NO copays, deductibles, or premiums, would be lower than what 95% of households already pay for incomplete private insurance.

David Frye
Tue, 10/15/2019 - 9:34am

I opened this column expecting to find a serious critique, detailing gaps in proposed Medicare for All dental coverage and offering alternative proposals to improve it. Instead I found a content-free anti-government rant. This is not helpful.

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 9:58am

You say "While these proposals may vary in size and scope, they would all only serve to undermine our current health care system. We should instead be working to build on and improve the current system. This would have a particularly harmful impact on oral health care—here in Michigan and across the country. "

I think you're missing the point that the current "health care is a for-profit system" actually should be undermined completely. It obviously doesn't work, and is getting worse in terms of affordability and access. All of your arguements against public health care are based on speculation and insurance companies' fear of losing their stake in the racket. Those programs wouldn't diminish the quality of care, only the egregious profits for corporate providers.

Also, it's generally understood that a public health care system would include higher taxes, but you fail to say whether those programs would eliminate premiums and out of pocket costs partly or altogether. It would be helpful to have those projected numbers so readers could determine if your "higher taxes" fear tactic helps or hurts your arguement.

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 10:30am

Hmmm can anyone think of a reason that that the CEO of BCBS would be against Medicare for all? This article isn't about your concern for patients and their access to dental care. It's about keeping things the way they are to benefit those making their money from a broken healthcare system. I would hope most readers could see through your false claim of having the utmost concern for the patients experience should we implement Medicare for all. Your concern is for the for- profit insurance companies and the dental providers paychecks. Sadly thats the Republican way.

Concerned Citizen
Tue, 10/15/2019 - 10:45am

Says the woman from Blue Cross Blue Shield. Its obvious whose interests shes wants to preserve. Her claims are baseless since a plan for Medicare for all hasn't even been explored yet.

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 2:26pm

LOL, who allowed this to be published? This opinion gives absolutely no information and isn't convincing of anything at all. Plus, the few facts that are attempted to be conveyed here are false - 90% of Americans do not have private insurance (less than 2/3rds do), and only 75% have any kind of dental coverage at all.

What qualified Janet to be president of the MDHA?

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 3:10pm

The defense of bankers is the defense of bankers. (Yes, I know, the avatar here, for "bankers" is "private and employer-sponsored coverage," but a pseudonym is still a pseudonym.) One does wish right wingers like Janet Miller would cease and desist with their straw man arguments. But then again, I suppose they cannot really come out and say what it is they really favor, because they'd be laughed out of court for the effort.

Tue, 10/15/2019 - 4:29pm

My insurance, for a family of 4 costs my employer and myself a combined $15,000+ a year. And I still pay out of pocket for a lot of my dentistry.

Ed of Grand Blanc
Wed, 10/16/2019 - 2:36pm

My insurance for several years after retirement but before Medicare was $25000 a year for two people of similar age. Medicare now costs me $10,000 a year with Dental, eye, and a minimal drug plan. We spend another 500/year for things that are not covered like annual physicals, shingles, extra power lenses, contact exams, etc. Currently we use no drugs, if one does those plans are typically another grand a year. So Medicare for all is NOT FREE! (or even inexpensive). Not to mention all the money I and my spouse put into Medicare which is in the thousands.

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 1:18pm

Well, under Medicare for All (Bernie Sanders style), there wouldn't be a need for private insurance so there would be no skewed marketplace, just no marketplace at all.

If Medicare were expanded, but a space for private insurance remained, it's likely that Supplemental plans would be purchased either individually or by the employer so dental coverage would remain.

middle of the mit
Thu, 10/17/2019 - 6:42pm

This article makes me wonder if the author owns any stock in healthcare companies.

Have you asked yourself the same question? Not if you own stock in healthcare companies.

I also wonder how she feels about people who can not afford the "free market principles" she espouses?

Do you care that they can not afford your prescription?

That is the pertinent problem here right? That despite living and working in the "richest nation the world has ever seen" the poor still haven't seen the trickle down they were promised that would lift all boats. What if you can't afford a boat?