January 5th Gov. Jay Nixon announced Missouri Medicaid will include adult dental benefits. Advocates are grateful to the Governor and the Legislature for moving this essential health care policy!
Adult dental benefits were cut from Missouri Medicaid in 2005. Increased use of emergency rooms for untreated dental conditions that should have been managed through dental care followed. Emergency rooms provide great care, but not dental. Antibiotics and pain killers provide relief, but do not resolve dental issues, prompting return emergency room visits. Emergency room visits for untreated dental conditions signals a poorly organized health care system featuring inefficient use of limited resources.
The governor made a wise choice to move forward with the budget passed by the Legislature. Implementing adult dental benefits will save the state money, support Medicaid recipients in maintaining the ability to work, and reduce emergency room use for dental conditions.
The legislature passed a state budget last session that included one-time funding for dental benefits in Medicaid. If we are to reap the full savings of regular dental care, it must be a permanent part of the health care system that is backed by funding in the Missouri budget. Missouri funds for Medicaid dental benefits are matched with federal funds, a savings for the state. We call on the Governor and Legislature to permanently fund adult dental benefits.
Oral Health advocates will continue to work diligently to make Missouri’s oral health a high priority.
Executive Director, Missouri Coalition for Oral Health