Providing Care to Low-Income Children & Adults – Oral Health Watch

Nearly 780,000 of Washington’s children (approximately 43 percent) are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid dental program.  However, many of these children never receive dental care. While programs such as Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) have improved access to care over the last 10 years, still more than 50 percent of these children do not receive care. Approximately 450,000 low-income adults also rely on Medicaid for their dental care and only about one-quarter of them actually receive care. These statistics need to change.

How oral disease hurts:

  • Children with poor oral health miss school and are less able to learn.
  • When the opportunity to prevent disease is missed, more children have painful tooth decay, avoidable treatment becomes necessary, and the cost to the Medicaid Program increases.
  • Many adults without access to a regular dental provider seek care in hospital emergency rooms—a very costly way to provide care.
  • People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from gum disease which can reduce their ability to control their blood sugar levels and potentially lead to costly diabetic complications, if regular, preventive dental care is not received.

Specific challenges:

  • The state needs additional dental providers to participate in the Medicaid program to meet the demand from patients seeking care.
  • There is also a need to expand outreach and education so more people understand the benefits of prevention and the importance of oral health for good overall health.

What the Legislature can do this year:

  • Protect the ABCD program, which has a clear track record of getting children into oral health care early.
  • Protect Medicaid payments to primary care medical providers who deliver preventive oral health services during well-child exams—another method of early intervention.
  • Protect the adult Medicaid dental program, especially for patients with diabetes and other health issues that make oral health services critical to maintaining good overall health and avoiding costly medical care.
  • Protect funding for outreach to Medicaid-insured families.
  • Review proposals to establish new mid-level dental providers with the goal of increasing access to care for under-served populations.

Opportunities to Improve the Medicaid Dental Program

By: Diane Oakes, President & CEO of Arcora Foundation When our state legislators passed the 2019–2021 Operating Budget in the final days of the session, they included a proviso directing the Health Care Authority (HCA) to stop moving forward with the planned implementation of Medicaid dental managed care, to continue directly administering the program under…

Apple Health dental program investments good policy, the right thing to do

Oral Health Watch and the nearly two million Washington residents with Apple Health (Medicaid) dental coverage need your support. While the House and Governor’s budgets include an increase for the Apple Health dental program, the Senate budget represents a cut of more than $19M in total funds ($7.8M in state funds) from the program. The…

Expanding dental care access is a top priority during 2019 legislative session

Oral Health Watch believes every person should enjoy the benefits of good oral health and that no one should be burdened by painful cavities and untreated oral disease. As Washington lawmakers return to Olympia for a 105-day legislative session this week, OHW would like to share some of the legislative priorities of oral health advocates.…

Making progress toward improved oral health care access

Oral health care advocates had a good deal to cheer about in 2018 as both Washington state and the federal government signed into law legislation aimed at expanding dental care access for underserved populations. This year began with a short Washington state legislative session that yielded multiple oral health care access gains, including the Legislature’s…

Open Enrollment Ends Dec. 15th

Washington residents seeking health care coverage for 2019 on the Washington Health Benefit Exchange have until Saturday, December 15thbefore the open enrollment period ends. Enrollment for Apple Health, our state’s Medicaid program, is available year-round for individuals and families that qualify for free or low-cost health coverage. The number of people signing up for care in…

Make your voice heard for immigrant families

By Litonya Lester, Health Policy Director and Sarah Domondon, Policy and Advocacy Associate at Children’s Alliance Immigrant families shouldn’t have to choose between getting dental care and their stability in the U.S. But the White House’s current proposed rule on public charge have many wondering if accessing vital services will put them at risk. Luckily…

Annual free health clinic in Seattle returns with some changes


Dental care often has been one of the most requested services at the SKCC. On Thursday, the first day of the SKCC, the clinic set aside about 500 tickets for dental care. Staff said all of those tickets had been given out by 9 a.m. Thursday.