Many adults who rely on Medicaid benefits find that there is little, if any, coverage for dental care. A long-standing lack of focus on adult oral health care from federal and state governments has created a patchwork of dental coverage by state Medicaid programs.
This lack of dental coverage in some states is particularly problematic because the millions of adults who rely on Medicaid are the least likely to access dental care, face the biggest cost barriers to dental care, and are more likely to experience dental pain, report poor mouth health, and find their lives to be less satisfying due to their poor oral health.
Ensuring that states provide comprehensive dental services to adult Medicaid beneficiaries is a sound economic investment. Recently, research from the ADA’s Health Policy Institute estimated what it would cost to secure dental coverage for the millions of adults who rely on Medicaid for their health care. The study shows that across the 28 states that currently do not provide comprehensive dental coverage, the net cost of providing extensive adult dental benefits is $836 million per year. This includes an estimated $1.1 billion per year in dental care costs and $273 million per year in medical care savings. Additionally, as Medicaid oral health coverage opens the door to regular care in more appropriate and cost-effective settings, fewer people would turn to emergency departments to relieve dental pain. This change could save our health system $2.7 billion annually. Poor oral health also creates social and economic barriers that prevent many low-income adults from economic advancement. Eliminating these barriers would generate additional savings and empower people to pursue better jobs and careers.
Key provisions in in these bills would make comprehensive adult dental care a mandatory component of Medicaid coverage for every state Medicaid program. Requiring dental coverage would close a huge gap in current Medicaid benefits, which are an increasingly important lifeline for millions of American families. As you know, adult dental coverage is currently an optional benefit, and many states provide little or no oral health coverage for adults. As a result, dental care is currently out of reach for millions of people.
The ADA is supporting legislation to require that dental coverage is a component of Medicaid coverage for adults in every state.
We urge you to write to your member of Congress to support legislation, the Medicaid Dental Benefit Act (S. 3166), led by Sen. Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Stabenow (D-MI) in the Senate and H.R. 4439, led by Rep. Barragán (D-CA) in the House of Representatives.
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