2011 session – a few bright spots, more work is needed – Oral Health Watch

We all know the 2011 legislative session was difficult.  Due to declining revenues, budget cuts were extensive.  Many programs to protect the health of vulnerable residents were affected.  At the same time there were few bright spots that demonstrate the value of advocacy and hard work.  Thanks to everyone who spoke out about the importance of oral health.

Dental coverage was restored for some adults on Medicaid including pregnant women and some disabled and senior populations.  Reinstating dental coverage for pregnant women is especially important because Moms can pass cavity-causing bacteria to their infants.  All Medicaid–insured adults need dental coverage especially seniors and those with diabetes.

Funding for outreach and case management was preserved for the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry Program.  ABCD increases access to preventive dental care for Medicaid-eligible children.  This program improves children’s health and saves money.  Prevention means less money is spent on expensive treatment.

It is a major accomplishment that Apple Health for Kids will stay open to all eligible children.   Apple Health provides health care, including preventive dental care, to almost 45 percent of all children in Washington.

There were significant budget cuts for Community Health Centers.   Medicaid rates were reduced and grants to provide dental care for uninsured patients were eliminated.   The healthcare safety net which protects the health of our most vulnerable residents has been significantly weakened.

Tough decisions were needed to balance the budget.  Although funding was preserved for some important oral health initiatives, the work to protect these programs needs to continue next session.   Oral health is an important part of overall health.  Everyone deserves access to oral health prevention and early treatment.

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