Good news! NH Senate Bill SB422, which would add Dental Care to NH Medicaid benefits for adults, was recently voted “ought to pass” by the NH Senate Committee on Health and Human Services. The next step for the funding of this benefit is a vote by the full Senate, and also by the House, and Governor Sununu’s signature. During the last budget cycle, the dental benefits were included in the budget but then removed during the final negotiations. Therefore, it is important that your legislators hear from you! You can find contact information for your senator and representative on the legislature’s website.
Why support this bill?
Eighty percent of the adults Aspire serves in New Hampshire use Medicaid. Because NH Medicaid does not cover preventative dental care for adults, many of these individuals do not receive timely dental care.
The current NH Medicaid Dental Benefit is for emergencies only. Only antibiotics for infection, narcotics/pharmaceuticals for pain, and removal of diseased and damaged teeth are paid for. No cleanings, fillings, or restorations are covered. As a result, many people seek treatment in hospital emergency departments where they receive “expensive care with no repair.” Medicaid can end up paying more for a temporary fix to a problem that might have been prevented in the first place with routine dental care.
If an individual has medical issues such as a heart condition, lowered immunity or more than 100 other diseases, untreated dental issues can have serious medical consequences. Infection can lead to unnecessary suffering and costly inpatient hospitalization.
People who struggle with communication may engage in self-injurious or aggressive behavior when in pain from untreated dental problems, resulting in injury and the need for more intensive supports. Delayed care can result in individuals requiring anesthesia for extensive procedures when dental problems become severe, which increases the associated costs and risks to the individual.
Good medical care, including dental care, is essential to the quality of life for every person. It also makes economic sense. Beyond increased medical costs, untreated dental issues cause work absenteeism due to pain and infection, as well as reduced employment opportunities when applicants have poor oral appearance, bad breath, or increased speech impairment.