DR. MEENA'S BLOG
Posts for category: MassHealth
A great article on the nationwide Medicaid cuts in dental coverage for adults in the New York Times. One piece of good news - starting in January, Massachusetts Medicaid will pay for fillings — but only for those in the front of the mouth. "The dental benefits issue came to the forefront recently here in Massachusetts, a state known for generous Medicaid benefits. Under budgetary pressures, the state stopped paying private Medicaid providers for fillings, root canals, crowns and dentures in July 2010. But it recently decided to restore part of that coverage. Starting in January, Massachusetts Medicaid will pay for fillings — but only for those in the front of the mouth. The reasoning was that healthy front teeth were more important for getting and keeping jobs."
Another sobering piece of statistics: "Pew Center estimated that preventable dental problems were the primary diagnosis in 830,590 emergency room visits in 2009 — up 16 percent from 2006.“It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish,” said Shelly Gehshan, the director of the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign. “Rather than an $80 extraction or a $300 filling, states are spending much more on emergency room visits that can’t fix the problem.”
In the final analysis, I concur with Dr. Michael Wasserman, the president-elect of the Massachusetts Dental Society, who said that he was disappointed Massachusetts did not restore full coverage but that even a partial restoration was extraordinary in these fiscal times.
A recent article in The Fiscal Times can be added to the long list of evidence that decreasing access to dental care only drives up costs in the long run:
When parents don't take their children for routine checkups and diagnostic tests, the risks of tooth decay and hospitalization rise. "The use of ambulatory surgery for dental problems is among the top five reasons for [same-day] surgery in kids under five," says Dr. James J. Crall, child advocate at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
This increase in costs when early treatment is denied is not limited to children. Oral health services provided to adults through MassHealth reduce costs to the state by preventing costly emergency services and decreasing the severity of other chronic diseases. A Kaiser study found the 2002 elimination of dental services merely shifted the cost of care to other parts of the health care system.
As more and more research emerges demonstrating the ineffectiveness of eliminating programs such as MassHealth aduled dental benefits, we must increase the urgency with which we deliver this message to decision makers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.