KING 5 in Seattle recently aired a story on the consequences of the Legislature’s decision to eliminate dental care for low-income adults. State funding for dental care was cut in 2011 and as a result more than 450,000 low-income adults in our state are denied the dental care they need to remain healthy. The KING 5 report emphasizes that the lack of dental care has “backfired” because a failure to provide early treatment has led to higher healthcare costs.
This year, through Medicaid expansion the state has a unique opportunity to leverage state funds and provide dental care to more than 700,000 low-income people for an investment of approximately $14 million a year. Using a portion of the savings from Medicaid expansion, the Legislature should restore dental coverage for low-income adults.
If current Medicaid enrollees have coverage, the federal government will pay the full cost of dental care for all new Medicaid enrollees under the expansion. The Legislature should act this session to leverage state funding and provide dental care to people who need it. It is an investment that makes sense.