With the release of the Senate budget Tuesday, both Houses of the state Legislature are proposing to continue funding dental coverage for low-income pregnant women, seniors in nursing homes and people with developmental disabilities. This coverage was eliminated in Gov. Gregoire’s proposed supplemental budget.
Decisions by legislators to preserve dental coverage reflect increased recognition that oral health is an essential part of overall health and that dental disease prevention saves money.
Like the House, the Senate budget also funds the Volunteer/Retired Provider Program that provides malpractice insurance for thousands of dentists, hygienists and other healthcare workers who volunteer their services. It also protects funding for other programs that benefit the oral health of low-income people, including Community Health Centers and the Basic Health Plan, and does not cut funding for local public health jurisdictions.
As decisions are made regarding the budget, advocacy efforts must continue to ensure that programs such as dental coverage that protect the health of vulnerable people are included in the final budget. Preventing dental disease is important because it saves money and improves health.