Nearly 60 million seniors and disabled persons rely on the Medicare program – and only about one-third of them have any coverage for oral health care. The Medicare statute currently excludes coverage for almost all oral health care. As a result, people with Medicare coverage suffer the physical and financial consequences of untreated dental problems.
Mouths matter—that is the finding in a national survey on public support for dental coverage.
More than 80 percent of people who were asked said they supported providing publicly-funded dental care assistance to low-income adults and families, and even more support coverage through Medicare, according to a Families USA survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by GS Strategy Group and PerryUndem.
As part of their tax obligation to provide benefits to the community beyond hospital care, nonprofit hospitals can fund oral health initiatives such as community dental clinics, mobile dental services, vouchers for dental care and oral health advocacy coalitions in the communities they serve. In this issue brief we explain how to advocate for such initiatives.
This year, several states passed budgets that expand oral health coverage for adults in Medicaid. Expanding this coverage goes a long way to improving overall health, making oral health care more accessible and affordable, and reducing unnecessary emergency room costs to both states and individuals. Now that state advocates and policy makers are planning for 2018 budgets, it is important to learn from the progress that was made, where these policies fell short, and consider how threats to oral health could also arise in state budget processes.
Oral health is an important part of overall health for everyone – but it can be crucially important to someone who is fighting a serious condition, such as kidney failure, an autoimmune disease, cancer or a heart problem. Unfortunately, Medicare covers almost no dental/oral health care, and imposes ill-considered restrictions on the limited care it will cover.
Congressional proposals to cut and cap Medicaid will put enormous pressure on states to cut services – and will make it nearly impossible for states that now have gaps in their coverage to ever catch up. The struggle to provide oral health care illustrates this problem. Currently, all states must provide oral health care for children, but oral health coverage for adults including seniors and people with disabilities is optional for states.
Even as healthcare has become a politically charged issue this year, we’ve seen oral health advocates work diligently and some states make progress to improve oral health benefits in their Medicaid programs. This week, with overwhelming bipartisan support, Maryland became the latest state to authorize a dental benefit for adults in its Medicaid program.
Millions of adults lack coverage for oral health care and cannot afford to pay for needed care on their own. States can make a difference by covering extensive oral health benefits in their Medicaid programs.
Former U.S. surgeon generals refer to oral disease as a “silent epidemic” affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.
People who lack coverage for oral health care are likely to forego preventive care, get cavities, lose teeth, and suffer from periodontal disease. This can exacerbate other chronic and acute illnesses people may be experiencing.
Millions of people in this country face significant barriers to obtaining the basic dental care they need to achieve good oral health. As a result, more than half of people in the U.S. go without any dental care each year, and many struggle with untreated dental disease that can have far-reaching, serious effects on their overall health.