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 lower-income adults, youth and senior citizens covered by Medicaid need and deserve a budget that supports increased access to care, not cuts.
Please reach out to your legislators to urge them to support the House position on Apple Health dental managed care.
The Apple Health dental budget has long been underfunded, leaving far too many people with Medicaid coverage unable to access critical preventive oral health care and timely restorative dental treatments. Some 1.3 million Medicaid-insured Washington residents – including more than 440,000 children – did not access dental care last year.
Reduced investment in the Apple Health dental program will lead to less access, more untreated oral disease and could force more people to seek relief in costly hospital emergency departments or self-medicate with painkillers. Poor oral health is linked to diabetes, pregnancy complications and heart health. Painful cavities and tooth loss also can impact school attendance, employment opportunities and quality of life.
Our state budget should prioritize expanding access to oral health care because oral health is vital to overall health and general wellbeing. Prevention and early intervention are always preferable to treating disease.
On July 1, the state is slated to transition its Medicaid dental program from fee-for-service to dental managed care. This change presents an opportunity to improve the program for both patients and providers. But the Senate’s budget may stop that implementation and start all over just as the Health Care Authority is on the verge getting the program running.
Implementing managed care without adequate funding ignores the current state of the program and encourages practices that threaten to further reduce access. This change is too important to move forward with a budget cut to an already underfunded program.
Please contact your legislators and tell them that you support smart investments in the Medicaid dental program. Restoring the $7.8 million (state funds) in the Apple Health dental managed care budget and removing harmful proviso language that could stop managed care implementation and threaten access to care will ensure that the state continues to build on the progress it has made toward improving oral health care access and reducing health disparities.