ADA supports Medicaid Dental Benefits Act

The ADA is supporting the Medicaid Dental Benefits Act of 2021, which would make comprehensive dental care a mandatory component of Medicaid coverage for adults in every state.

In a Nov. 22 letter  to Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., ADA President Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S., thanked the lawmaker for introducing the bill and said the COVID-19 pandemic has "shone a spotlight on the inadequacies within our social safety net programs, most starkly in oral health care." They also noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly half of U.S. adults reported delaying dental care, according to the Journal of Dental Research .

"Unfortunately, this problem has only grown due to the large increases in Medicaid enrollment since the start of the pandemic," wrote Drs. Sabates and Cohlmia, sharing Kaiser Family Foundation research that from February 2020 to May 2021, adult Medicaid enrollment increased by nearly 23%.

"Many adults who rely on Medicaid benefits find that there is little, if any, coverage for dental care, and they are unable to afford basic dental care on their own," Drs. Sabates and Cohlmia said.

The ADA letter also said that American adults on Medicaid find dental care options vary based on the state, noting less than half provide extensive dental coverage for adults in their Medicaid programs while other states only offer limited benefits, emergency-only coverage, or no dental coverage at all for adults.

"This lack of state coverage is particularly problematic because the millions of adults who rely on Medicaid are the least likely to access dental care (including basic preventive services), face the biggest cost barriers to dental care, and are more likely than their higher income counterparts to experience dental pain, report poor mouth health, and find their lives to be less satisfying due to their poor oral health," Drs. Sabates and Cohlmia wrote.

"Ensuring that states provide comprehensive dental services to adult Medicaid beneficiaries is a sound economic and equitable investment," the letter concluded. "As such, we commend you for your efforts to lead on this issue and urge other members of Congress to cosponsor the Medicaid Dental Benefits Act of 2021."

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