The Washington Legislature’s decision two years ago to eliminate non-emergency dental benefits for nearly 450,000 adults helped balance the budget. But it was a costly decision because the uninsured often turn to already overburdened emergency rooms, creating costs that are passed on to taxpayers and other healthcare consumers.
If state lawmakers restore the dental benefits in next year’s legislative session, it would shift the state’s focus from expensive treatment to more cost-effective preventive care and improve hundreds of thousands of lives. Community health centers and other dental clinics could provide the routine, preventive care necessary to help patients avoid the severe problems that lead them to costly emergency rooms.
Read the full press release (PDF) for more details about how Washington’s emergency room physicians are coping with the problem and what they say about how the state could save money by paying for Medicaid dental benefits for low-income adults.