Dental community urges Senate leaders to protect coverage

By: Colin Reusch

Last week, CDHP and the American Dental Association (ADA) co-signed a letter to the chairmen of key U.S. Senate committees with over 40 other organizations, urging these senators to protect oral health coverage as they review any Senate-modified version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). As CDHP has previously mentioned, the AHCA would threaten children’s oral health coverage in a number of ways.

Most concerning, the House-approved AHCA bill changes how Medicaid is funded and cuts an estimated $834 billion from the program’s funding over the next 10 years. These changes put at risk the availability of dental benefits for millions of families. In addition, one of the proposed financing options (a block grant) would allow states to make unprecedented changes to their programs, like waiving the EPSDT standards, which have long ensured children’s access to comprehensive care, including dental and oral health services.

The AHCA bill puts at risk the availability of dental benefits for millions of families.

Since 2000, the percentage of children without dental coverage has been cut in half, with 89% of children insured as of 2014. Many of those beneficiaries receive their coverage through public programs, like Medicaid, which covers some 37 million children.

Adults’ oral health also would take a hit. Although adult dental coverage through Medicaid varies by state, as of 2015 over 5 million adults had gained access to some form of dental coverage through Medicaid expansion. The AHCA would also phase out Medicaid expansion and make it more difficult for low-income adults to enroll in the program.

Public dental coverage for children through Medicaid and CHIP has become ever more effective attracting more dentists, covering more children and creating more opportunities for prevention. Given all the challenges that families face in obtaining vital dental care, these achievements are something to celebrate and preserve.

In addition, the way the AHCA is structured would allow states to waive the Affordable Care Act’s Essential Health Benefits requirements, which, as the CBO noted in its score of the bill, would likely result in the elimination of benefits like pediatric dental coverage in some states.

This sign-on letter sends a strong message to the Senate. As they seek to make changes to the AHCA focused on efficiency and flexibility, senators should build upon the important strides the U.S. has made to expand dental care access of the last few years. The Senate should not weaken these deeply impactful and beneficial programs. CDHP and the ADA appreciate the support of all co-signers of this letter.

For more information on how the AHCA would impact the oral health of children and families, visit the CDHP Toolkit. The toolkit includes fact sheets, webinars, talking points, letter templates, call scripts, and more.

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