COVID-19, economic recovery, racial justice will be focus of 2021 Legislative Session – Oral Health Watch

The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly impact Washington state and beyond into the new year. And the 2021 legislative session, which began on January 11th, is no exception.

This year’s session will be unlike any in history as social distancing and coronavirus-related restrictions have forced lawmakers to operate remotely. Leadership from both chambers announced in late 2020 that the 2021 session will, for the most part, be conducted virtually.

While the virtual format will create new opportunities for participation since people won’t have to travel to Olympia to testify, it also means that residents, advocates and even fellow legislators will have less face-to-face interaction with lawmakers. That is why legislator outreach via emails, phone calls and online meetings are especially important this session. You can reach your representative using the Oral Health Watch legislative outreach tool by calling or emailing them. To testify remotely, us this link for the Senate and this link for the House.

In anticipation of what likely will be continued impacts to from the pandemic – and the acknowledgement that addressing matters related to public health, the economy, and the racial and ethnic inequities that persist in our society need immediate attention – legislators have indicated their agenda will primarily focus on a handful of issues and legislation that need to be addressed this year. COVID-19 response, economic recovery, social justice, public health and climate change will be the top issues, along with passing a new state budget.

With a $4 billion budget gap, lawmakers will have to make some difficult decisions to balance the budget. Fortunately, Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed budget preserves funding for Apple Health adult dental. Now, it is up to the Legislature to do the same.

More than one million low-income adults from all 39 of Washington’s counties rely on Apple Health dental health coverage for essential preventive oral health care and dental treatment. Dental care helps to maintain good oral health and keep dental problems from worsening.

Unfortunately, the impacts of dental disease and poor oral health disproportionately affect lower-income, BIPOC, and underserved and rural residents. Programs like Apple Health Adult Dental are wise investments that connect people to dental care and help prevent needless pain and more expensive treatments.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that health coverage is a necessity – and that includes comprehensive dental care coverage. The Apple Health adult dental program is not only good health policy, it also is the right thing to do to advance health equity.

Watch this space for updates as the Legislature continues its businesses and to learn more about why everyone deserves the benefits of good oral health, go to OralHealthWatch.org.

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Arcora Foundation
400 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 800
Seattle, WA 98109
Oral Health Watch does not provide dental care and cannot provide direct referrals. To find dental care in your area, please visit our resources page. Please contact Oral Health Watch for more information about our programs and oral health in Washington State