It’s unfortunate that legislators couldn’t finish business in the regular legislative session (“Special sessions not so ‘special,’” May 14, 2013), but there is at least one issue they can quickly agree upon in the special session: restoring dental coverage for adults on Medicaid.
In 2011, the Legislature made deep cuts to benefits to remedy a budget shortfall. This left 450,000 people with only emergency care for their dental problems. No cleanings, no fillings — leading to deteriorating oral health. We’ve seen the neglect in patients coming to our HealthPoint medical and dental clinics in King County.
In search of relief for severe pain, the uninsured head to hospital emergency rooms where providers can only prescribe pain medication and antibiotics, not fix the underlying dental issue. This is a costly and ineffective way of treating patients. Gum disease is also linked to heart disease and stroke, and can affect people’s ability to work.
Now legislators have the opportunity not only to provide dental coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Washingtonians, but to ensure that the state receives significant federal funding to support it. It’s an easy choice that legislators can check off their list.