Oral Health in Action
Rally for Dental Therpists - September 12, 2017
Health Care For All held a rally/press event at the Massachusetts State House in support of legislation that would authorize dental therapists to practice in Massachusetts, S.1169/H.2474, An Act authorizing dental therapists to expand access to oral health. Currently, many Massachusetts residents have difficulty accessing necessary dental care, and there are major disparities in oral health based on race and income level. Authorizing dental therapists is one way to help deal with this problem.
HCFA's Executive Director, Amy Rosenthal, hosted the event and introduce the speakers.
Speakers representing a wide range of stakeholders came to explain why this legislation is so important. Several elected representatives who have long been champions of oral health shared how this legislation would benefit their constituents: State Senator Harriette Chandler, State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, and Boston City Councilor Matt O'Malley all came to express their support.
Community leaders spoke on the positive impact dental therapists could have on their communities. John Robinson from the Mass Senior Action Council explained why seniors need policies that expand access to oral care, and Horace Small from the Union Of Minority Neighborhoods detailed the importance of oral health care for populations throughout Massachusetts, including communities of color and low-income communities.
We also heard from Katy Leiviska, a dental therapist from Minnesota, who came all the way to Boston to share her insight gained from working as a dental therapist. She explained how dental therapists receive the same level of education as students training to become dentists, but have a narrower scope of practice, so they can effectively perform preventative and basic restorative work while freeing up the capacity of dentists to perform procedures of higher complexity. She also explained how dental therapists tend to see a higher volume of patients on public insurance than dentists do, helping to increase access to dental care for the many Americans who rely on Medicaid.
After the rally, the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Public Health held a public hearing on the bill. Many of the speakers from the rally also provided testimony at the hearing. This picture shows John Robinson from the Mass Senior Action Council testifying in support of S.1169/H.2474, An Act authorizing dental therapists to expand access to oral health.
Interview with Boston Neighborhood Network News - August 30, 2017
HCFA's Oral Health Project Manager, Dr. Neetu Singh, and Shannon Wells of the Mass. League of Community Health Centers spoke on Boston Neighborhood Network News about the importance of integrating oral health care with overall health care.
Press Conference Highlighting Oral Health Integration at The Dimock Center - August 30, 2017
Health Care For All, The Dimock Center, and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers held a press conference highlighteing the successful oral health integration program taking place at the Dimock Center and similar programs happening at other community health centers throughout the state.
MassHealth Listening Session – August 4, 2017
HCFA’s Oral Health Project Manager, Dr. Neetu Singh, testified today at the MassHealth listening session in Boston on behalf of the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce (OHAT).
Dr. Singh raised questions about the proposal by state MassHealth officials that could threaten dental coverage for over 140,000 low-income MassHealth members. At issue is a state plan to move these low income adults out of MassHealth, which provides a dental benefit, to ConnectorCare, a health program with no dental coverage. At a public listening session on the state’s request for a federal waiver to implement the proposal, Dr. Singh commented that many could lose their ability to access affordable oral health care. For people in ConnectorCare, dental care may be available at community health centers through the Health Safety Net program. However, the health centers have long waiting lists and many would likely end up in hospital emergency rooms, which are not equipped to provide needed dental care.
The Oral Health Advocacy Task Force will also be submitting detailed written comments on the proposal.
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
National Oral Health Conference - 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 recent disastrous outcome of the repeal effort in the House, 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)