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SOURCE Missouri Dental Association
Missouri Dentists Urge Governor to Sign Proposed Budget Allowing Dental Coverage for Underserved
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo., May 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Missouri General Assembly in a bi-partisan vote today approved an annual state budget including $48.2 million in federal and state funding for adults to receive dental care through the state's Medicaid program. If signed by Gov. Nixon, the program will allow adults in need to qualify to receive dental care for the first time since funding was cut nearly a decade ago.
This funding comes at the right time. According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly one-third of people in the Midwest failed to see a dentist in 2013. The reasons are varied and complex and will only escalate without a complete set of solutions.
"This is a significant step in the right direction for improving both the oral and overall health of Missourians who struggle to afford dental care," said Dr. Merle Nunemaker, president of the Missouri Dental Association (MDA). "The entire legislature is to be commended for recognizing both the likely improvements in oral health for adult Medicaid enrollees and the potential cost savings to the state by providing funding for adults to receive dental care under Medicaid. Instead of seeking pain relief in an emergency room, adults in need would be able to see a dentist to treat the underlying problem."
Currently, Medicaid funding for adult dental services is only available for those who are blind, disabled or pregnant.
"This proposal could go a long way to improve the health of Missourians who haven't been able to see a dentist in years," said Dr. Craig Hollander, president-elect, Greater St. Louis Dental Society. "Oral health is connected to overall health. As we saw at last weekend's Missouri Mission of Mercy charity dental clinic, where more than 1,600 underserved Missourians lined up to receive free dental care, we know people are suffering with untreated dental disease and need care now."
In addition to public education efforts through the MDA's Your Mouth Is Talking, Are You Listening? campaign and the ADA's Mouth Healthy effort, Missouri dentists have been working alongside state legislators for years to strengthen the public/private safety net and fight for increased dental health protections under Medicaid.
"The need is clear," Nunemaker said. "We've seen that first hand – and we know what we must do. Missouri dentists will continue to work alongside Missouri policymakers to address the many barriers individuals face in obtaining dental care. The MDA is thankful to Representatives Sue Allen and Rick Stream and Senators Kurt Schaefer and Rob Schaaf for their commitment to protecting Missourians' dental health and in moving this legislation forward."
Governor Jay Nixon will now consider the proposal and will have the final say whether underserved Missouri adults will be able to receive needed dental care through the Medicaid program this year.
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