A Healthy Blog

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

Oral Health

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

Dental 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. Read more »

Study: Less MassHealth Dental Coverage Means More ER Visits for Tooth Pain - Particularly for Those Over 55

Have you ever experienced a long wait in an emergency room?  Did it ever push you to the brink of frustration that you wanted to pull your hair out? Or your teeth?  That may be because the elimination of most MassHealth adults' dental care resulted in more trips to Massachusetts emergency rooms for dental issues. In addition to adding to the overcrowding of emergency departments, those dental visits were expensive, costing way more than the charge for regular dental care. In 2010, MassHealth adult dental benefits were severely cut. Until recently, if a MassHealth member has a case of tooth... Read more »

Confusion and Cost Create Barriers To Dental Coverage Plans

For years advocates have worked to share a message that Massachusetts knows well: Oral health is critical to overall health, and dental insurance is health insurance. The messaging looked like it would pay off when dental coverage for children was mandated by the ACA as one of 10 Essential Health Benefits that must be offered by compliant insurance plans. However, as illustrated by this NPR story, the route to expanded access to quality, affordable children’s dental coverage is not as foolproof as one would hope. Read more »

Powerful WGBH Report on MassHealth Dental: "My teeth have literally fallen apart, crumbled."

This morning WGBH radio ran a story on the continued impact of the MassHealth adult dental cuts that were initiated in July 2010. Three years after most dental benefits were eliminated, we’ll see some progress. Fillings will be restored for all teeth, a change passed in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget that is likely to go into effect on January 1, 2014. As the story points out, this is great, but many individuals are still left without access to the basic services that they need to maintain their health. The story looks at two MassHealth recipients who's health is at risk due to limited dental... Read more »

Happy Fiscal New Year! House, Senate Send FY 2014 Budget to Governor, With Some Good News for MassHealth Dental Coverage

Today the House and Senate sent to the Governor the FY 2014 budget (giant pdf), which  was filed by the joint conference committee late last night. Any minute now, we'll get a detailed report from our friends at the Mass Budget and Policy Center, and we'll post a link and any updates as they do their analysis. (Update: their analysis is here) But we were smiling when we turned first to the Medicaid line items. Smiling, of course, because the final budget includes $17.2 million to restore coverage for dental fillings for adults in the MassHealth program. These funds should allow the MassHealth... Read more »

Senate Budget Ups Some Health Funds

After two long days (and long nights), the Senate finalized their budget for Fiscal Year 2014 (which starts in July), and in doing so brought some good tidings for health in Massachusetts. Perhaps the greatest win was in oral health – the Senate allocated $13 million to the MassHealth line item to restore coverage for dental fillings for MassHealth members. Senator Harriette Chandler led a group of senators to push for the increase. Limits in current coverage often force patients to choose between enduring months (or years) of dental pain due to untreated cavities, or undergoing the only... Read more »

Senate Budget Debate Starts Wednesday - Here's Our Amendment Recommendations

Tomorrow the state Senate will begin debating its version of the state budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins on July 1. Like the House budget did, the Senate Ways and Means version starts out with a strong commitment to building on the state's health coverage reforms through implementation of the ACA, and some substantial deficiencies in funding for health care programs. The best overview of the Senate budget comes, of course, from the Mass Budget and Policy Center. The overview notes the continued decline in support for public health: Read more »

Your Task Today: Call Your Senator To Restore Oral Health Fillings

The Senate budget released yesterday is a mix of good and disappointing, of course. We'll have a more detailed report, with all of our amendment recommendations, early next week. But for now we want to focus on the most glaring problem with the budget - no funds for dental fillings for some 800,00 low-income adults on MassHealth, including 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people with disabilities. Now, dentists can identify cavities during an examination, but with the exception of a small number of billing codes, fillings are not covered.  Left untreated, a simple cavity can lead to serious... Read more »

House Approves MassHealth Dental Fillings in Budget; Still Cuts MassHealth

It was hard to notice. But an obscure section in a the final, technical amendment during the House budget debate would allow over 800,000 low-income adults to receive dental fillings under the budget approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives Wednesday night. The budget amendment added $17.2 million to restore coverage for fillings in the MassHealth adult dental plan, effective January 1, 2014. Those benefiting include 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people with disabilities. Oral health is a crucial part of overall health. Left untreated, dental decay can spread throughout the body,... Read more »

House Budget Debate: Call Now For MassHealth Dental Coverage and Staffing

This week starts the budget process in the state House of Representatives. For the next 3-4 days, the House will deal with some 888 amendments. The full budget and amendments are here.  You can also download the "Amendment Book" which has the amendments summarized and categorized by topic. I counted 49 in the Health and Human Services category, another 27 in the Mental Health and Disabilities category, and 58 in the Public Health category. That's a lot. Read more »

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