Awareness is growing across Washington of the plight of uninsured dental patients and the need for the Legislature to restore dental benefits for Medicaid-eligible adults in the legislative session that started this week.
The decision by state lawmakers in 2011 to eliminate dental coverage for most low-income adults left 450,000 people without dental insurance. Many of those uninsured patients seek care in already overburdened emergency rooms, creating costs that are passed on to taxpayers and other healthcare consumers.
Doctors and nurses around the state say they see patients come into emergency rooms every day with serious dental pain. But hospitals are not designed to treat dental problems. These medical professionals can only treat the pain, not fix the patients’ underlying oral health problems.
Untreated dental disease is a serious health concern because oral health affects overall health, especially for people with diabetes. In addition, it is hard to find a job and become self-sufficient if you’re missing teeth or are in constant dental pain. Dental disease is preventable, but people need access to dental care.
In recent weeks, state newspapers and other news sites across the state have written about the growing problem of uninsured dental patients, overcrowded emergency rooms and the need for state to restore Medicaid dental coverage.
Jerry Large column, Seattle Times, Dec. 12
Dr. Bicuspid, Dec. 17
Op-ed from Dr. Marcia Wheaton, Everett Herald, Dec. 22
Skagit Valley Herald, Dec. 23
Yakima Herald-Republic, Jan. 2
The Spokane Spokesman-Review, Jan. 3
Dr. Bicuspid, Jan. 7