Dental first financing (DFO) plans have been a hot topic in Arizona lately, as the state is looking to make it easier for those in the health care industry to access dental services.
The state has been looking to get some of these programs up and running, with a handful of pilot programs starting up this year, and a few more coming this fall.
In 2018, the state will open up DFO programs to new applicants with the aim of getting the first dental providers in the state in line to offer the DFOs program.
The DFO program is designed to be as affordable as possible for the health insurance industry, and allows dental providers to provide dental services without having to be licensed by the state.
DFO is not a requirement for medical students, but it can be used as an incentive to get dental coverage.
“We’re trying to encourage the industry, the providers, to have dental, because the insurance industry has to cover a certain percentage of the cost of a dental appointment,” said Mike Zilch, a dental officer with Arizona Dental Association (ADOA).
Zilch said the ADOA is working with the Arizona DPO to get the first DFO plans ready for applicants in the spring, so that if they have a hard time finding a dentist in the area, they can have dental coverage for themselves.
“This is a great opportunity to have a dental plan that will give us the best possible coverage to help lower the cost for those who are uninsured,” Zilk said.
Zilk and his fellow ADOA members said that in order to qualify for dental insurance, people will need to have at least three years of income and one year of experience working as a dental hygienist or nurse practitioner.
The DFO allows individuals to qualify with a total income of $70,000 or more, and can be purchased on a sliding scale for individuals and families with up to two children.
Dental first is not just about dental care, Zilcke said.
It can also be used to offer dental care for people with mental health and substance abuse problems.
“In Arizona, there are a number of people who are receiving treatment at mental health institutions.
They can’t afford to go to a dentist, so we can provide them with dental care that’s affordable, that’s safe, and we can help them access their mental health services,” Zillch said.
The ADOA, along with the DMO, also recently held a workshop on the issue.
They said that as of September 2018, only five dental offices in Arizona have dental programs, with an average wait time of three to six weeks.
The APA, ADOA and DMO are now working with Arizona State University to develop a pilot dental plan for people in the dental industry.
They’re hoping to put the pilot plan online this fall, so dental practitioners can start offering dental services to Arizona residents in the next few months.