State to reinstate adult preventative dental services for Medicaid recipients

Published: Dec. 13, 2019 at 12:25 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

The Department of Health and Social Services has decided to scrap a plan to eliminate its preventative dental program for adult Medicaid recipients, saying that the decision came after extensive consultation with the federal agencies about legal requirements.

The reversal comes after the state’s Department of Health and Social Services realized it hadn’t followed provisions of the Affordable Care Act when it made a decision to cut adult dental services in July.

“After many months of discussions and a full review of all of the options, DHSS determined the best way to meet our obligation to Medicaid recipients and to maintain the fiscal integrity of the program was to reinstate the Adult Enhanced Dental Program,” said DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum in an emailed statement.

Adult dental benefits were temporarily extended through Sept. 30, at which time dental work was only available to Medicaid recipients through Medicaid’s emergency dental program.

While the emergency side of the dental program covers procedures like tooth extractions that are causing pain, the preventative side covers things like cleanings, fluoride, root canals, and most importantly, fillings on salvageable teeth, said David Logan, executive director of the Alaska Dental Society.

Now, the Department says that it will also retroactively cover patients who received services between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, when the program will be fully reinstated. DHSS says that $8.3 million of state general funds with a federal match of $18.7 million were included in the governor’s FY2021 budget that was released Wednesday.

In the press release announcement, Crum added that the decision to reinstate the program was financially beneficial, in addition to benefiting Alaskans’ health.

“Initially we thought eliminating the program would be best but, because of the program’s complex rules and federal requirements, this was the more prudent option to benefit the health and well-being of Alaskans and our state’s fiscal sustainability.”

The decision also affects adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, who are covered by the program.

In a budget document that explains funding changes in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021, the state acknowledged that preventative care could help reduce emergency dental costs. “Preventive dental services help deter higher costs that would be incurred through utilization of emergency dental services instead,” it reads.

The document also says that the state will “continue to explore ways to increase the cost-effectiveness of the adult preventative dental program and maximize its return on adult Medicaid recipients.”

Logan, with the Alaska Dental Society, says he's pleased with the decision, particularly that the program is restored with the same parameters in place. "Either way, however it worked out, we'd long advocated for it to be restored," he said.

Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.