As we wait to hear how Governor Patrick plans to make cuts in the state budget to make up for the $600 million dollar deficit, we are fearful that this will include crucial dental benefits for adults on MassHealth. The MassHealth adult dental benefits provide access to dental care for nearly 700,000 vulnerable adults, including more than 120,000 low-income seniors and 180,000 disabled individuals
When left untreated, dental disease can lead to death. Last week, a Michigan woman with disabilities suffered an entirely preventable death caused by an untreated dental infection. This woman was unable to access the treatment that she needed because Michigan recently cut adult dental Medicaid benefits. This is a tragic story, but one that occurs too often when essential services are not available.
Although oral health is a critical part of overall health, it has historically been kept separate from the rest of the body. However, adult dental disease is linked to a multitude of complex health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and low-birth weight and premature infant births. It is almost entirely preventable when people have access to prevention and treatment services.
Oral health can also take a toll on our quality of life. Dental disease affects some of our most basic activities of life such as speaking, eating, learning and working. Nationally, more than 51 million school hours and 164 million work hours are lost each year due to dental-related illnesses. Lack of access to dental services leads to needless pain and suffering,
Oral health services provided through MassHealth reduce costs to the state by preventing costly emergency services and decreasing the severity of other chronic diseases. A Kaiser study found the 2002 elimination of dental services merely shifted the cost of care to other parts of the health care system. Cutting adult dental from MassHealth will cause the state to waste millions in extensive and costly services in emergency and inpatient hospital settings.
The Governor is expected to announce his budget cuts soon. Today could be our last day to speak up to protect these vital benefits. Click here to learn how you can help!
UPDATE: The deans of the Commonwealth’s three dental schools, Boston University, Harvard and Tufts University Schools of Dental Medicine and President of Forsyth Institute all agree that dental cuts are dangerous. Click here to read their letter (pdf).