Medicaid, dental

Medicaid Programs Are Now Providing Dental Care, Some Dentists Push Back

The government is finally doing something about the expensive cost of good dental care.

ABC reports that six states have expanded their Medicaid programs to provide dental coverage for adults. The federal and state insurance programs for those who aren’t financially stable have only been required to cover dental insurance for children.

But now things are changing. Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Maryland, and New Hampshire are the latest states to begin or expand their dental coverage. Tennessee also adopted the program, spending close to $75 million annually.

While this is very good news for those lacking proper dental care, there is still a dilemma facing those states: finding dentists to work with them. Several states have dentists who refuse to treat Medicaid patients.

In some instances, HBCUs have come to the rescue. Patients like Carlton Clemons, 67, found refuge at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry in Nashville. Clemons had experienced severe pain from a rotting wisdom tooth, but thanks to the Medicaid program and Meharry, he’s feeling much better. “Man, I thought I had made it to heaven because the pain was over,” Clemons said.

“When they did pull it out, I was so happy. I was so glad. Everything just changed after that.”

Other states, such as Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, and Louisiana, only offer limited benefits, according to Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Eligibility protocols are causing a problem, as many beneficiaries have been removed from Medicaid after eligibility reviews took place, which was prohibited during the pandemic. There is also the matter of getting more dentists to be certified under Medicaid, which could take up to four months.

In the meantime, states already on board have dished out big checks to make sure their residents’ grills are healthy and shine bright. New Hampshire is spending over $33 million over 12 months so its 88,000 Medicaid recipients can keep smiling. Kansas provided dental care to almost 137,000 Medicaid recipients for $3.5 million in 2022 and $1.2 million in 2023. Advocates are happy, too, as a Texas A&M University study showed that the program saves states money.

Treatment for preventable dental issues accounts for nearly 3% of emergency room visits at a price tag of $2 billion a year.