The 2017 Missouri legislative session has ended and the 2018 state budget has been signed by Governor Greitens. While there is a 1.5% drop in Medicaid provider rates, coverage for adult dental care through MO HealthNet is in the budget. Dental services continue to be delivered to Missouri adults eligible for MO HealthNet (Missouri Medicaid). This is a big win for the Coalition! Congratulations to our members and partners!
Draft numbers indicate the delivery of around $29 million worth of services for adults since reinstatement of oral health coverage in May 2016. About 85% of these services are taking place at Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).
Significantly, we are starting to see a drop in the use of Emergency Rooms for non-traumatic dental conditions. This is one proof that covering these services for adults is a sound public policy. In addition to supporting Medicaid-eligible adults in seeking and keeping jobs, this policy saves the state money on Emergency Room expenses that should not be happening. ERs provide assessment and often can only prescribe antibiotics and painkillers, inadvertently contributing to the opioid epidemic. Missouri is fortunate to have several current dental ER diversion projects operating in specific areas. In most areas, though, people with untreated dental conditions who use the ER when the pain is beyond tolerable are urged to seek dental care. Without coverage and with limited access in our many underserved areas, that is little more than wishful thinking. People living in rural Missouri are more likely to be impacted by lack of local access.
Our sincere thanks to the Missouri legislature and Governor for continuing MO HealthNet adult dental coverage. Coalition members are acutely aware that state government has many revenue challenges that must be addressed soon if sensible policies like adult dental coverage are to continue. Returning to the days of no adult coverage will only up the pressure on ERs, increase costs and lead to poor outcomes.
Gary Harbison, Executive Director