Maryland expands dental care coverage to some Medicaid patients

A limited number of adult Medicaid patients in Maryland can now receive coverage for basic dental care services, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Through the Adult Dental Pilot Program, about 33,000 Maryland patients are eligible for dental coverage. Maryland was among the 15 states that didn't cover dental care for adult Medicaid beneficiaries.

The eligible patients represent less than 3 percent of the nearly 1.4 million adults on Medicaid in Maryland, reports The Baltimore Sun. Medicaid patients can receive preventative, diagnostic and restorative services. Additionally, the program will cover removing teeth, but will not cover replacement costs.

"We would've wanted a more expansive package," Mary Backely, executive director of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, told The Baltimore Sun. "But we recognize that this is an important step."

The Adult Dental Pilot Program is designed to cut Medicaid and overall healthcare costs, as the Medicaid programs spend millions when these patients go to the emergency room for dental care.

DentaQuest Institute, a nonprofit research group, found in 2016 there were 42,000 emergency room visits for dental problems. This totaled $22 million. Medicaid paid around $10 million to cover the visits.

Many of these patients had to return to the emergency room within 15 days, DentaQuest reports. These emergency room visits cost $537 on average.

However, the program does not have enough money to support all eligible patients. The budget for the Adult Dental Program in the first year is $4.2 million, reports The Baltimore Sun. If every eligible patient enrolled in the program it would cost nearly $26 million.

"After the first year, based on the numbers, we will revisit funding if need be," Dennis Schrader, Maryland's health department COO, said to The Baltimore Sun.

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