Dentistry seeks Medicaid dental benefit for U.S. adults

2020 09 17 16 38 0936 Insurance Coverage 400

Leaders and organizations in healthcare and dentistry, including the ADA and the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) are asking U.S. lawmakers to add extensive adult dental benefits to every state Medicaid program to improve oral health equity and access.

The Oral Health Response Workgroup, a group of stakeholders across dentistry originally formed in April 2020 to address pandemic-related oral health issues, says opening access to dental service for Medicaid recipients will promote positive health outcomes and curb healthcare costs, according to a workgroup press release dated December 7.

"Oral health equity in this country is a very real issue and is exacerbated within the Medicaid population," ADHA Advocacy Director Ann Lynch said in the press release. "Virtually all dental disease is preventable. In the U.S., it is incumbent on us to make the investment to better the lives of all."

Other organizations calling for change include the following:

  • The Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
  • The CareQuest Institute for Oral Health
  • Community Catalyst
  • The Dental Trade Alliance
  • The Diverse Dental Society
  • Families USA
  • Henry Schein Cares Foundation
  • The Hispanic Dental Association
  • The National Association of Dental Plans
  • The National Dental Association
  • The National Rural Health Association
  • The Oral Health Progress and Equity Network
  • Overjet
  • Project Accessible Oral Health
  • The Santa Fe Group
  • The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network

More than 80 million people in the U.S. have Medicaid coverage, but dental coverage for adult recipients is optional for states. Most states provide coverage for emergency or urgent dental services for adults, although each state defines it differently.

About one-third of states do not provide dental care beyond emergency procedures. Previous research from the ADA Health Policy Institute showed an estimated $273 million annually in medical care savings if extensive dental services were offered in the 28 state Medicaid programs where they are currently restrictive.

"This is a chance to meaningfully address long-standing health disparities that have existed in this system for far too long," Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, MBA, president and CEO of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, said in the release. "We stand ready to serve as a resource and to work with Congress to ensure improved health outcomes for all communities."

Initially, the workgroup started in April 2020 as the Oral Health Pandemic Response Workgroup to address oral health issues created by the pandemic. Now, the group is addressing the broader role of oral health providers and stakeholders in overall healthcare, including dental-medical integration.

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