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.
Later this year, the state is transitioning from fee-for-service dental to dental managed care, which will significantly change how it delivers oral health care for people with Apple Health coverage. Dental managed care aims to increase the number of Apple Health providers and expand access to care for Apple Health-insured patients. A smooth transition is essential for both providers and enrollees, in order to achieve the goals of the program and to help more Washington residents access preventive oral health care and vital dental treatments to improve overall health and wellbeing. That is why a number of OHW members support the Governor’s budget request of an additional $8.3M in state funds for Medicaid dental and the launch of dental managed care.
As the state prepares to implement dental managed care, OHW will continue to advocate for the sustained support of proven-effective programs like Access to Baby and Child Dentistry, which attracts many dentists to serve children from lower-income households and offers an introduction to participating in the Apple Health dental program. We’ll be monitoring access for young kids before, during and after the implementation of dental managed care.
OHW also will continue to champion innovative practices like Oral Health Connections that show promise in expanding dental care access for those facing the greatest need. Oral Health Connections is a three-year program, which began on January 1, serving lower-income pregnant women and people with diabetes in three counties: Thurston, Cowlitz and Spokane.
In partnership with the Children’s Alliance and Poverty Action, OHW supports efforts to add dental coverage for two underserved communities: adults from Compact of Free Associations (COFA) nations (Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau), and adults who access medical coverage through the state’s Medical Care Services (MCS) Program. Providing essential dental care access for COFA adults and recipients of MCS would provide much-needed preventive care and treatment for two communities who stand to benefit greatly from oral health care coverage. These are important oral health equity issues; people aren’t fully covered without dental coverage.
Finally, OHW will continue to support ways to improve oral health care for vulnerable populations facing the greatest needs while advocating for proven-effective programs that help prevent oral disease. Such efforts include: supporting safety net dental clinics to meet current and future needs, educational and outreach programs that underscore the benefits of good oral health, and expanding dental care access for senior citizens, children and underserved communities.
OHW invites you to join it in its mission to end health disparities. Please tell lawmakers that you support smart investments in oral health care. Together, we can expand oral health care access in Washington state.