Health Care For All and the Oral Health Advocacy Task Force applauds the Governor’s continued support for health reform, including oral health. Although he faced many difficult decisions as he fought to balance the budget, and are grateful that he has preserved adult dental benefits in MassHealth.
Oral health is a critical part of overall health- poor oral health is associated with other chronic health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, low-birth weight, and premature infant births.
The Governor has helped approximately one in ten Massachusetts residents by safeguarding these benefits. These programs provide access to vital services including exams, preventive cleanings, fillings, and dentures that allow for adequate nutrition to almost 700,000 individuals. He showed great foresight in protecting these programs, which offer significant cost-savings in the long run by decreasing the severity of other chronic diseases and granting access to cost-effective preventive services.
This move also protects vulnerable populations. More than 120,000 low-income seniors and 180,000 disabled individuals receive dental coverage through MassHealth. In addition, eliminating these benefits for adults would have negatively impacted children and families. We know that parents and children go to the dentist as a family unit, so limiting insurance coverage for adults leads to lower participation among children. Additionally, eliminating dental benefits for adults would have decreased the number of providers who will accept MassHealth, limiting access for children.
This victory is the direct result of the effective integration of communications and advocacy. We generated countless phone calls to legislators and the administration, made several literature drops at the State House, had numerous meetings with policy makers, ran advertorials that raised the profile of oral health, sent press releases far and wide, and a leveraged a tremendous amount of teamwork and participation from each member of the Taskforce.
We would like come together again to thank Governor Patrick for supporting the kinds of programs and policies that promote public health and connect the mouth to the rest of the body. Please take a moment to call the Governor and thank him. You can reach his constituent services office at 617.725.4005. Tell them that you are a member of the Oral Health Advocacy Taskforce and that you are calling to thank the Governor for preserving MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits, and for recognizing oral health as an essentail part of overall health. Let him know that the Taskforce looks forward to working with him to identify new sources of revenue, such as closing the tax loophole on Other Tobacco Products.
We will continue our work to keep oral health safe- the state in general and MassHealth in particular still faces deficits and we must continue to be vigilant in our advocacy. Please stay tuned in the coming weeks as we continue to advocate for oral health in the Commonwealth!