Virginia Medicaid needs a comprehensive adult dental benefit

Healthy Roanoke Valley’s vision is a community where all can achieve and sustain optimal health and well-being. One of the cornerstones of that vision is comprehensive health coverage for all, and we made enormous strides across Virginia toward that vision with Medicaid expansion last year. However, there is still a critical piece missing: Virginia Medicaid does not provide comprehensive dental coverage to adults.

Currently, Medicaid dental only covers pregnant women and emergency extractions, but we know that a comprehensive dental benefit for all adults would save money and improve health outcomes.

A comprehensive adult dental benefit in Medicaid will:

  • Reduce avoidable emergency department visits. In 2018, Medicaid members used the ED nearly 19,000 times, most often for conditions that could have been prevented or treated at a dental clinic if they had coverage.
  • Improve chronic disease outcomes. When a diabetic person’s dental disease is treated they visit the hospital 39% less, visit the doctor 13% less and save $2,840 in annual medical costs compared to diabetics with dental disease.
  • Reduce opioid prescribing and improve substance use disorder outcomes. People enrolled in SUD treatment who also receive dental treatment are twice as likely to get a job on discharge; twice as likely to abstain from drug use; and 1/3 less likely to go into homelessness compared to the group that didn’t receive dental treatment.
  • Improve the health of children in Virginia. When parents are covered, they are more likely to take their children to the dentist regularly. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children; it’s five times more common than asthma, and students in Virginia miss 1 million hours of school each year because of dental problems.

You can find your legislator here; please reach out by phone, email, or letter and ask them to make sure an adult dental benefit in Medicaid is included in the biennial budget this year!

If you need postcards, help with drafting a message, or would like to visit your legislator and want some additional support, let us know.