The lack of dental benefits for Medicaid-eligible adults contributes to this coverage gap, as the provision of dental care to adult enrolled adults is currently optional for state Medicaid programs. Through the remarkable work of community advocates and policymakers, states such as
However, while most states provide at least emergency dental care for adults (defined differently by state), many do not provide dental care beyond emergency procedures or have no coverage at all. This leaves adult Medicaid members who need dental care with an untenable choice of going to an emergency room or suffering from pain.
The case for the implementation of Medicaid dental benefits for adults goes beyond the moral imperative. When better and improved population health is the mission and mandate of government, and when the vast disparities between socioeconomically disenfranchised and historically marginalized populations are well documented, then government has an incumbent on addressing access to health care for those most affected and disproportionately represented among Medicaid enrollments.
Additionally, the lack of dental insurance is a significant factor in disparities in overall health outcomes, making the expansion of Medicaid dental benefits to adults a powerful lever in achieving equitable oral and overall health.
For example, adults who are eligible for Medicaid also suffer from significantly higher rates of diseases related to poor oral health, such as cardiovascular disease, oral cancer, and substance use disorders, compounded by a lack of access to necessary preventive oral health care.
Expanding Medicaid coverage also has undeniable economic benefits. Nearly 80% of emergency room dentist visits cost the healthcare system
In addition, adults who receive Medicaid dental care report improved oral health and employability.
While progress in
By extending additional dental benefits to Medicaid adults,