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Speak Up to Support Full Oral Health Benefits in MassHealth

Speak Up to Support Full Oral Health Benefits in MassHealth

April 10, 2014

Oral Health Advocacy Task Force logoLoyal readers of the Healthy Blog know: oral health is health, and dental insurance is health insurance. Cuts to MassHealth adult dental benefits are bad for health, bad for employment, and bad for long-term state spending.

Yet in 2010, benefits in the MassHealth adult dental program were significantly cut. Currently, the only oral health services covered for adult MassHealth members are cleanings, extractions, and fillings. The result is damaging to health and quality of life in so many ways, as WGBH documented last year. Take Harriotte Hurie Ranvig, a MassHealth member who is 67, blind, and lives in Somerville:

Harriotte Hurie Ranvig has trouble chewing.

"I cannot chew on the right side of my mouth," she said. "Because there’s extracted teeth on the top and bottom on the right side in the molar area. So the teeth will not strike on that side. If I eat a carrot or something that’s big and hard, it slides in the grove between the teeth, and that’s not chewing! Dental health is an integral part in any human’s health," she said. "They’re not just little rocks in our mouth. They’re critical."

The House Ways & Means budget proposal was released yesterday. The language in Section 84 restricts MassHealth from providing any dental care services beyond those services covered in FY 2014. Here is the language:

SECTION 84. Notwithstanding section 53 of chapter 118E of the General Laws, the executive office of health and human services may determine the extent of which to include within its covered services for adults the federally optional dental services that were included in its state plan or demonstration program in effect on January 1, 2002, and the dental services that were covered for adults in the MassHealth basic program as of January 1, 2002; provided, however, that the level of covered services provided shall not exceed the level of services as provided in fiscal year 2014.

 

This proposal is our cue to dig in and continue to advocate for restoration of MassHealth adult dental benefits. And that’s exactly what is being done. Representative John Scibak is filing an amendment for full dental care, and we here at HCFA are helping to build support. Here’s what you can do to help today:

  • Call your Representative. Urge them to contact Representative Scibak’s office to sign on to his amendment for FULL restoration of MassHealth adult dental benefits. The amendment calls for an increase of $67.7 million for line item 4000-0700. The cosponsor deadline is Friday at noon, so please don’t delay!
  • Join us at the State House on April 16th. Advocates, providers, and consumers are coming together at 1:30 on April 16th to push for restoration of MassHealth adult dental benefits. It will be a brief but important event, followed by the opportunity to deliver the message that the time for restoration is now directly to legislators and staff. More information is online here.

Over 600,000 adults on MassHealth are counting on us to make sure they get the coverage they need to stay healthy.

     - Courtney Chelo