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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Dental Health in the Media: Discussions for MA and for the Nation

Dental Health in the Media: Discussions for MA and for the Nation

June 16, 2014

Public News Service story on dental studyDental health issues were in the spotlight today both on a state and national level.  Looking at Massachusetts, the Public News Service released a story about the increase in dental-related visits to emergency rooms following cuts in adult dental care in MassHealth in 2010. The story is based on a recent study by the BU School of Dental Medicine, which found that following custs in MassHealth dental care, ER visits for adults increased by 14%, and growth among those 55 to 64 years old jumped an astonishing 50%.

HCFA’s own Oral Health Policy Coordinator, Courtney Chelo, was quoted, stating that patients seeking dental care in the ER are provided temporary pain relief but are, “not necessarily getting into a dental chair and having whatever problem directly addressed.”

Also included is Senator Harriette Chandler who has been fighting to restore oral health funding to MassHealth.  Sen. Chandler sponsored a Senate budget amendment to restore MassHealth coverage for dentures.

The article highlights the need to continue to fight to restore MassHealth adult dental care benefits to provide dental care to thousands of people across the state.

Nationally, NPR’s The Diane Rehm show today discussed dental health across the country. The topic of conversation focused on increasing access to dental care, promoting prevention and education, reducing costs and increasing multi-disciplinary team-based care.

Diane Rehm was joined by a 3 experts on her show, including Dr. Louis Sullivan, former secretary of Health and Human Services under George H.W. Bush, and president emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Much of the conversation discussed the differenced between dental health access and insurance coverage compared to medical health, focusing on the overall health problems caused by this inequity.  Dr. Sullivan set the tone of the conversation, stating, “We know that we can do better. Dental health is part of overall good health.”

The program included questions from the public, mostly voicing frustrations over lack of dental coverage and high costs. One caller, who did not have dental insurance, shared his own story of spending years suffering from dental pain and sleepless nights while he saved up enough money to pay for the care that he needed.  He stated, “I don’t understand why [dental care] isn’t considered as necessary as access to medical care.”

You can hear the show on Diane Rehm’s website.

   - Melinda Rossi