Dean Spencer N. Frankl spoke at the State House Monday as part of a campaign organized by Health Care for All‘s Oral Health Advocacy Task Force to restore dental benefits under MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. Dental benefits were cut from the state budget in spring 2002 by then-Governor Jane Swift.
Budget negotiations in the House closed April 29 without restoring the benefits; as a result of Health Care for All’s lobbying, the Senate Ways and Means Committee restored dental benefits May 17 for pregnant women and mothers with children under age three. In addition, the committee included language allowing MassHealth dentists to cap their caseloads.
"We maintain separate insurance systems for medical versus dental care, and dental care benefits are the first cut when money is scarce," said Dean Frankl Monday. "This is fiscally irresponsible because the cost of treating advanced dental disease and providing emergency care are far greater than the cost of preventing disease to begin with. Almost all oral diseases are preventable and manageable if caught early."
When the state eliminated most adult dental MassHealth benefits in 2002, BUSDM instituted the BUMP-UP ("Boston University MassHealth Patient Upgrade") Program to help cover MassHealth patients. The program enables MassHealth members afford basic dental care.
In the coming weeks Health Care for All will work with the legislature to maintain restoration of funding for pregnant women and children under three and to restore dental care for all adults.
The need for such care is undisputed. When left untreated, dental diseases can have serious consequences for a person’s general health, well-being, and economic status. To email your state senator and ask for dental benefits to be restored, visit Health Care for All’s website and click "Take Action."