NYT: Sharp Cuts in Dental Coverage for Adults on Medicaid
- Children's Dental Policy
- August 29, 2012
BOSTON — Banned from tightening Medicaid eligibility in recent years, many states have instead slashed optional benefits for millions of poor adults in the program. Teeth have suffered disproportionately.
Republican- and Democratic-controlled states alike have reduced or largely eliminated dental coverage for adults on Medicaid, the shared state and federal health insurance program for poor people. The situation is not likely to improve under President Obama’s health care overhaul: it requires dental coverage for children only.
In about half the states, Medicaid now covers dental care only for pain relief and emergencies, according to a recent report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, a national health research group. Other states cover preventive exams and cleanings but not restorative services, like fillings and root canals.
At the same time, there are shortages of dentists in many poor and rural communities, according to the Pew Center on the States. In a report this year, Pew estimated that preventable dental problems were the primary diagnosis in 830,590 emergency room visits in 2009 — up 16 percent from 2006.
“It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said Shelly Gehshan, the director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign. “Rather than an $80 extraction or a $300 filling, states are spending much more on emergency room visits that can’t fix the problem.”
Read the full story at: www.nytimes.com