By Lynn Doan, Strategic Engagement Fellow
Starting July 1, 2014, adults enrolled in Colorado Medicaid have access to new dental services, building upon a Medicaid benefit that became available in April of this year. The new dental benefit provides adults on Medicaid, age 21 and over, with up to $1,000 in dental services per state fiscal year. This is exciting news because access to regular dental care can prevent minor oral conditions from developing into more complex (and costly) health conditions.
On April 1, adults enrolled in Colorado Medicaid became eligible for preventive dental coverage, benefits that were previously only offered to children and emergency adult patients. However, the preventive services that began in April were limited to cleanings, minor fillings, and diagnostic imaging services.
Now, in addition to those basic preventive services, adults are able to receive more comprehensive care including:
- Root canals
- Partial and complete dentures *
- Periodontal scaling
- Root planing
- Other procedures requiring prior authorization will also be available
*Partial and complete denture benefits are in addition to the $1,000 cap per state fiscal year, but they will be limited to one set every seven years.
Access to regular dental care is important because it may actually prevent certain diseases from occurring. Research shows that more than 90 of all systemic diseases (diseases involving many organs of the whole body) have oral manifestations. Such diseases include diabetes, leukemia, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease and kidney disease.
A healthy smile not only affects a person’s overall well-being and self-esteem, but also economic opportunities. For instance, studies have shown that a healthy smile increases the chances that a job applicant will receive an offer. Yet those who earn less may not be able to afford comprehensive care and are thereby put at a significant disadvantage.
About 28% of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year have lost all of their natural permanent teeth compared to 4% of adults who earn $50,000 a year. Access to comprehensive dental care, like dentures, can help alleviate these issues and enhance a client’s ability to obtain and keep a job.
Many adults who are on Medicaid are unaware of the fact that they now have dental coverage. Join us in spreading the exciting and important news to Medicaid recipients. Recipients may search for dental providers in their area by visiting the Administrative Services Organization’s website at DentaQuest.com. For more information, including frequently asked questions about the new dental benefit, visit Colorado.gov/hcpf/benefits.
With more benefits available for Medicaid clients, there is also a need for more dental providers to enroll and participate in the Colorado Medicaid Program. Dentists are essential to improving the oral health of these underserved patients in our state. Find resources on how to enroll as a provider here.