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8 states reforming dental care access

Becker's has reported on multiple stories this month about states who have approved or are considering measures to expand dental care to residents.

Here are eight states making efforts to expand dental care access and improve oral health:

  1. Under Virginia's recently passed budget, 75,000 state residents enrolled in Medicaid will have access to additional dental coverage beginning July 1. Services covered include preventive care, X-rays, exams, fillings, dentures, root canals, gum-related treatment and oral surgeries. Previously, the state only covered dental care for pregnant women and youth under 20 years old.
  2. On June 23, Oregon lawmakers sent a bill to Gov. Kate Brown that would authorize dental therapists to work in the state. The bill came with revisions after a previous version received pushback from multiple dental organizations regarding scope, training and supervision of people in this role.
  3. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill June 18 to end the ban on teledentistry in the state. In 2020, the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners issued COVID-19 guidelines that required dentists to perform physical examinations during all visits, effectively banning teledentistry in the state. Passage of the bill came after a lawsuit was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and bipartisan support for reform of dental care in the state.
  4. Wisconsin's budget writing committee voted June 15 to increase Medicaid reimbursement for low-income dental services in the state's 2021-23 budget and expand Medicaid dental services by 40 percent. The Wisconsin Legislature also proposed a bill to authorize dental therapists and auxiliaries. The Department of Human Services also awarded the La Crosse County Health Department $50,000 to expand a severe pain program aimed at curbing opioid addiction.
  5. A recent New Mexico mandate requires students of all grade levels who relocate to the state or transfer to a new district or charter school to have had a dental exam within the past year before enrollment beginning July 1. The New Mexico Dental Therapist Coalition reported that a quarter of elementary school students may have untreated tooth decay, which is connected to lower grades and higher absences. The new mandate was passed to expand oral health in the state.
  6. Florida recently passed its 2021-22 fiscal year state budget, which includes $225,000 for the Florida Dental Association to continue its Mission of Mercy program that provides free dental care to people in need.
  7. Dental Access Partners and Minnesota Dental Association requested in a June 2 letter for state Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, to support a proposal that would move to a single or dual administrator for Medicaid dental programs to ensure oversight of Medicaid dental reimbursements. Currently, Minnesota's dental reimbursements are some of the lowest in the U.S. That combined with administrative burden are the main reasons for providers not to participate in Medicaid. The two organizations stated in the letter that changes to the state's Medicaid program would positively affect oral health and dental care access.
  8. State legislators in Maine proposed a budget agreement June 28 that would expand preventive dental care access to more than 200,000 adults under the state's Medicaid program beginning April 2022.

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