California dentists want insurance companies to pay for COVID-19 PPE

COVID-19 increased prices of necessary gear such as personal protective equipment and disinfectant, and California dentists want insurance companies to pick up the costs, Kaiser Health News reported May 5.

"We've sustained a lot of financial costs," Judee Tippett-Whyte, DDS, president of the California Dental Association, told KHN. "We shouldn't have to bear the cost of this ourselves," she added, citing the spike in the price of items like a box of gloves, which she says now costs $30 instead of the $2.39 pre-pandemic. Dr. Tippett-Whyte, who owns a practice in Stockton, Calif., said those additional costs have been exacerbated since fewer patients are being scheduled due to COVID-19 safety measures like social distancing.

Thus, insurance companies, who've collected premiums while paying fewer claims amid the pandemic, should pick up those extra costs, the state's dental and physician lobby groups say.

However, insurance trade groups argue the cost of nonmedical supplies is not their responsibility.

"Here we are with treatment and office levels back at pre-pandemic levels. Now they want additional payment from plans to pay for nonmedical expenses," Mary Ellen Grant, a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans, told the news outlet. The industry also notes that it hasn't received federal funding in response to the pandemic, pointing out that the state's 50,000 medical providers have received $9.9 billion through the Provider Relief Fund.

SB 242, a bill that would require private health plans regulated by the state to reimburse dental and medical providers for "medically necessary" business expenses related to a public health emergency, is still being debated in California.

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