Oral Health in Action

Oral Health in Action

Dental Benefits Report included in State Budget - July 17, 2017

For the past decade, dental benefits for adults on MassHealth have suffered numerous cuts. Though services have been incrementally restored in recent years, a number of crucial services still remain uncovered, including periodontal services for gum disease, endodontic services (root canals) and crowns. Full adult dental benefits were last covered in 2010. 

From the beginning of 2017, the Oral Health Advocacy Task Force has been engaged in the state’s budget process and has worked with the Legislative Oral Health Caucus Co-chairs, Senator Harriett Chandler and Representative John Scibak, to advocate for the legislature and the Baker Administration to prioritize the oral and overall health of residents of the Commonwealth by supporting a language amendment that was introduced by Representative Smitty Pignatelli. This no-cost amendment directs the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services to report the following:

“(e) a schedule to include within its covered services for adults at least those federally optional services for dental care and dentures which were included in its state plan in effect on January 1, 2010 and the accompanying cost of implementation;”

We're happy to say that Governor Baker and his administration have prioritized oral health and included this language amendment in the final budget for FY2018. 

Joint Committee on Health Care Financing - July 11, 2017

Dr. Neetu Singh, the Oral Health Project Manager at Health Care For All, testified in support of Bill H.624, An Act relative to early childhood cavities. This bill would establish a pilot program to improve management of early childhood cavities among children on MassHealth. Dental decay is the most common preventable disease in children throughout the nation, affecting roughly one-third of all preschoolers and disproportionately impacting children from disadvantaged populations are the most severely impacted. This program would be partly based on a similar program at place in Boston's Children Hospital, which has proven to reduce cavities and lower overall spending on dental treatment. As Dr. Singh testified, "This model will help work towards attaining health equity between our diverse populations, particularly for our most vulnerable and underserved."

DentaQuest Regional Meeting in Pittsburgh - June 27, 2017

Dr. Neetu Singh was given the opportunity to highlight Massachusetts as a "Bright Spot" at the DentaQuest Regional Meeting in Pittsburgh on June 27, 2017. She gave a presentation that informed attendees about OHAT's engagement in the state's FY2018 budget process. This engagement involved educating legislators on oral health and advocating for them to prioritize oral health in the budget. One important policy we advocated for was the inclusion of a language amendment in the final budget that directs EOHHS to report a schedule and cost estimate for reinstating comprehensive adult dental benefits for MassHealth enrollees by March 1, 2018. This amendment was ultimately included in the final budget.

Annual Health Fair - June 15th, 2017

Alexis Major, HCFA's Oral Health Organizer and Deolinda Daveiga, HCFA's Outreach Coordinator attended an annual health fair at Rosie's Place where they spoke about health care access and the importance of oral health integration.

Oral Health Caucus - June 13th, 2017

HCFA's Oral Health Team hosted the 2nd Oral Health Caucus of the year to highlight the Oral Health Integration Project. The Caucus featured guest speaker, Dental Director of MassHealth, Dr. Donna Jones along with panelists Dr. Lisa Simon, Dr. John Fisher and Ms. Anh Vu Sawyer and Dr. Neetu Singh. Legislative oral health champions, Representative Scibak and Senator Chandler along with other legislators, providers, community organizations and oral health advocates attended.

Hearing on EOHHS Office of Health Equity - June 13th, 2017

HCFA's Dr. Neetu Singh provided oral health testimony supporting H.622/S.641 An Act Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in the Commonwealth. She stated "Over the past few decades substantial gains have been made to improve oral health in the United States and in Massachusetts. However, race and ethnicity continue to be significant determinants of oral health status - with people of color bearing a disproportionate burden of dental disease." This legislation would require EOHHS to create the Office of Health Equity to eliminate racial & ethnic health disparities and work towards achieving health equity for all residents in Massachusetts.

Forsyth Institute Gala - June 1st, 2017

HCFA's Dr. Neetu Singh and Alexis Major with Dr. David Satcher at the Forsyth Institute's 4th Annual "A Taste & A Toast to Good Health". Dr. Satcher received the Forsyth Icon Award at this event for having served as the 16th U.S. Surgeon General and authoring the first report on oral health in America which detailed the full meaning of oral health and its importance to general health and well-being.

Recruitment For Berkshire and/or Franklin Counties Focus Group - May 24th, 2017

Tobacco Free Mass Lobby Day - May 18th, 2017

Alexis and Neetu from HCFA's Oral Health team joined legislators and advocates at the Free Tobacco MA Lobby day in support of House Bill #2864 and Senate Bill #1218, which would raise the age of sale for tobacco from 18 to 21. The bill will reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth, and will improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs. 

National Oral Health Caucus - April 24-26th, 2017

Dr. Neetu Singh and Oral Health Organizer, Alexis Major, joined oral health educators to address the importance of oral integration in Alburque, New Mexico during the National Oral Health Conference. Given the disastrous outcome, elevating oral health is vital!

Advocates Aim To Boost Dental Coverage, BNN News  - April 21st, 2017

HCFA's Oral Health Project Manager, Neetu Singh, spoke to BNN News on April 21, 2017 about the work HCFA is leading to restore coverage of periodontal treatment for people enrolled in MassHealth.

Thank you from the Oral Health Integration Project (OHIP) - April 6th, 2017

On behalf of the Oral Health Integration Project, thank you! A few weeks ago and with your help, we were fortunate enough to conduct two successful oral health focus groups for residents residing in Central and Western, Mass. As you know, these focus groups were and will remain to be an essential part of Health Care For All's assessment of systematic barriers to oral health services in Massachusetts, and because of your support and willingness to spread the word, we had the opportunity to hear from caring, compassionate constituents. So again, thank you!

Let's continue to keep up the good work and create a better health care system in Massachusetts!

We highly appreciate the support of the Southeast Asian Coalition and Anh Sawyer, Executive Director, for hosting us and connecting us to the community.

Legislative Oral Health Caucus - March 21st, 2017

HCFA’s Dr. Neetu Singh presented at the Legislative Oral Health Caucus on behalf of the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce (OHAT) on March 21, 2017. The slide presentation, supporting Health Policy Commission (HPC) policy brief and Periodontal Treatment Fact Sheet can be found here.

2017-2018 OHAT Key Legislation

  • Restore MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits: HD 1592 (Rep. Scibak & Sen. Chandler): An Act Relative to the Restoration of MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits will restore full MassHealth adult dental benefits to more than 800,000 individuals, including 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people living with disabilities. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to systemic infection, hospitalization, and the worsening of other medical conditions. Oral health is an integral part of overall health and should be included in health coverage.

Other Priority Legislation

  • Improve the Children’s Medical Security Program (CMSP): HD 2594/SD 467 (Rep. Malia & Sen. DiDomenico)

  • Pilot a Risk-Based Oral Health Model Statewide for Children on MassHealth: HD 1597/SD 941 (Rep. Scibak & Sen. Chandler)

  • Raising the Minimum Legal Age to 21 for the Sale of All Tobacco Products: HD 3668/SD 1353 (Rep. McMurtry & Sen. Lewis)

Full 2017-2018 OHAT Legislative Priorities can be found here