Legislature should say yes to providing emergency dental care via AHCCCS

The Arizona Republic | Page A18Friday, 27 January 2017
Bookmark and Share
Putting a smile on Arizonans’ faces

Legislature should say yes to providing emergency dental care via AHCCCS

Your mouth. It does more than get you into trouble at work. Your mouth is the door to your body. Left untreated, a rotten tooth can spread infection to major organs, including the brain and heart. And it isn’t just about teeth. Periodontal disease can cause a variety of systemic health problems that reach beyond the mouth.

Yet Arizona’s health coverage for indigent and working-poor adults does not include routine dental care, which could prevent dental disease.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Since 2009, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System has not even covered emergency dental care.

That means someone with complicationsfrom an infected tooth is likely toshow up in the emergency room. This is the most costly and least effective way of delivering care.

Gov. Doug Ducey recognized this. His budget proposal to the Legislature reinstates emergency dental care for the 850,000 adults enrolled in AHCCCS, with a $1,000 cap per patient, per year.

The state’s investment from the general fund of about $1.6 million would bring in a generous federal match, says Kevin Earle, executive director of the Arizona Dental Association.

The total budget is $14.5 million. Federal money accounts for $11.4 million of that, and the balance is made up by hospitals and counties, according to the Governor’sOffice. This is a classic example of getting maximum bang for the state’s buck. Fiscally conservative lawmakers should appreciate and support that kind of reasonable approach.

In addition to minimizing the use of costly emergency-room services, providing emergency dental care will help keep people working, instead of recovering.

Dental health care has long been seen as a lesser sister to medical care, but that’s as anachronistic as thinking a menthol cigarette will help your sore throat.

It past time to recognize the importance of what happens in people’s mouths.

Rep. Kelli Butler also is trying to achieve that with a bill to provide dental care to pregnant women on AHCCCS.

She is working with the Arizona Dental Association, the Dental Hygienists Association and the March of Dimes to bring attention to the “correlation between the lack of dental care for pregnant women and low birth weight babies,” she says.

Providing dental care for pregnant women is essential for the health of women and the babies they carry.

Pregnancy creates hormonal changes that can make women more susceptible to dental disease, but the harm from infection is not limited to the expectant mother.

Infections in the mother’s mouth cancause serious problems for her pregnancy, thus creating risk for the baby. Lawmakers concerned about unborn children should care about this.

There are also purely economic reasons for providing this needed dental care. An investment of $1.7 million from the state’s general fund would bring in nearly $4 million in federal matching dollars, Butler says.

What’s more, providing care that can prevent complications in pregnancy and guard against low-birth-weight deliveries will save the cost and heartache of subsequent remedial medical treatment.

Butler says the bill is still in draft form, but she expects to introduce it soon.

It deserves the backing of lawmakers who care about the health of pregnant women and the babies they carry.

Coupled with the governor’s wise and compassionate plan to extend emergency dental care to adults on AHCCCS, expanding care to pregnant women represents a positive and fiscally sound move for Arizona.

Bookmark and Share
Powered by TECNAVIAPART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK Copyright © 2017 The Arizona Republic 01/27/2017
Click here to see this page in the eEdition: Page A18
(Login Required)
Bookmark and Share

Scroll to Top