A friend of mine asked me to think about this question recently, so I will share my thoughts here as well.
Regarding new federal legislation, i.e. health care reform – for dentists, it looks like it may have the biggest impact on pediatric dentistry (up to age 21) as all Americans under age 21 will either have to have or will be provided with dental coverage. So, that could mean a big flood of kids coming to dental offices when this goes in effect. Yet, these new patients may not be high-paying, or, the reimbursement rates for these children will not be on the high side, I would imagine. But, it could mean a big increase in volume of patients. And, the result may even mean new patients who have never been to a dentist before.
As well, as of 2014, Medicaid coverage will greatly expand. In some states, this will include dental coverage, and in some states it won’t. Each state will determine its own set of standards for “comprehensive care for adults” that may or may not include dental coverage. In states where it DOES, this could mean another flood of patients to the dental market. The problem is, that as of today, states haven’t yet decided what these standards of care are yet – this is yet to be determined. But, this could probably be fairly easily predicted, based on a state’s current Medicaid coverage – i.e. (for example purposes only) let’s say that Texas provides rather “restrictive” benefits to its Medicaid recipients currently, while Vermont Medicaid recipients enjoy many more benefits and coverage. Medicaid is one of those programs that the federal government funds by giving a pot of money to states, and then states decide how to dole it out, meeting some minimum standards set by the feds. So Medicaid coverage varies from state to state.
There is a paper here you may find helpful.