Blog - Oral Health Watch

Oral Health Watch Coalition Working Together

Oral Health Watch coalition members gathered at our annual luncheon in Olympia this past week. It was an engaging meeting that gave us all a chance to catch up with fellow oral health advocates and share with one another our 2017 legislative goals.

State Senator Ann Rivers (R-18), a strong supporter of oral health care access, was the keynote speaker. Introducing Sen. Rivers, Arcora Foundation President & CEO Diane Oakes described the lawmaker from La Center as a person who wholly understands the connection between oral health and overall health.

“We are fortunate to have a champion who understands that access to preventive oral health care and early dental treatment can improve health, prevent unnecessary suffering and save money,” said Oakes.

Explaining to Oral Health Watch coalition members why dental care access is important to her, Sen. Rivers shared with the group her personal experiences as a young girl. Rivers, who described herself as coming from ‘humbler beginnings,’ noted that she didn’t see a dentist until she was seven or eight-years-old.

Sen. Rivers added that her ability to access dental care as a child has helped her later in life – professionally, personally and health-wise.

She also noted that while our state has made great strides in improving dental access for vulnerable young children and providing coverage for low-income adults, more can be done.

“Washington State has been a leader in health care,” said Sen. Rivers. “We’ve done well with children and there’s been some good progress with adults. Yes, we have some miles to go before we can rest. But I’m ready for the hike if you are.”

Thanks to all of the Oral Health Watch partners who attended and shared with the coalition their commitment to oral health: Adult Family Home Council, Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, CHOICE Regional Health Network, Coordinated Care, Delta Dental of Washington, The Foundation for Healthy Generations, Molina, Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, The Office of Governor Jay Inslee, Olympic Community of Health, Statewide Poverty Action Network, , Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers, Washington Healthcare Access Alliance, Washington State Dental Association, Arcora Foundation, Washington State Department of Early Learning, Washington State Department of Health, Washington State Health Care Authority, Washington State Hospital Association and Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby.

Medicaid Expansion Presents an Opportunity to Secure Dental Coverage for Low-Income Adults

In Washington State, the Medicaid adult dental program was largely eliminated in 2011 due to budget shortfalls.  Thanks to action by the Washington State Legislature, coverage was restored January 1, 2014.

Arcora Foundation and its many partners successfully advocated for the restoration of the Medicaid adult dental program. Success required:

  • compelling messages
  • strong grassroots advocacy
  • a broad-based lobbying coalition
  • effective media outreach

These tactics, combined with the right timing and a recovering state economy, led to the restoration of dental coverage for Medicaid-insured adults, which has the potential to benefit more than 775,000 low-income people in Washington.

The opportunity to leverage federal dollars proved to be one of the arguments that persuaded policymakers. Because of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the Medicaid program, the federal government will pay the full cost of dental care for all new enrollees through Medicaid expansion. To learn more about this and other messages that generated bipartisan support for the Medicaid adult dental program, read our advocacy brief.

Trying to Secure Medicaid Adult Dental Coverage in Your State?

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Arcora Foundation
400 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 800
Seattle, WA 98109
Oral Health Watch does not provide dental care and cannot provide direct referrals. To find dental care in your area, please visit our resources page. Please contact Oral Health Watch for more information about our programs and oral health in Washington State