Thanks to updated projections from the Arkansas Department of Human Services today, major cuts to the Medicaid program that included total elimination of adult dental services now appear less likely.
DHS Director John Selig told the Senate Public Health Committee on Thursday morning that the projected $138 million shortfall for Medicaid services could now be about $60 million less, but that the state still faces a significant challenge to provide services for the 250,000 Arkansans that would become eligible for services through Medicaid expansion. Previously, Selig had indicated that the adult program could be eliminated along with Level 3 nursing care, long term care services and other programs.
In a letter to Selig and Medicaid director Andy Allison last month, ASDA encouraged the retention of the adult dental program stating that the ”total elimination of the adult dental program is not advisable. Although it is the most recent major addition to the Medicaid dental program, the elimination of the entire program will increase expenditures for physician and emergency room visits. Abscessed and fractured teeth left untreated never get better. The conditions only worsen, which leads to additional pain and potential systemic abnormalities all of which will certainly require dental or medical care. ASDA recommends the retention of the adult dental program in all its phases, but at least the retention of extractions as a means of elimination of pain and prevention of additional treatment costs.”
In defending Medicaid expansion, Selig told the Public Health committee on Thursday that “this opportunity for 100 percent federal funding is only available for three years. What I’d like to do is get people as healthy as possible during that three year period. That way when the state does have some expense, we’ve already taken care of their worst dental problems, their worst surgical needs,” explained Selig.
ASDA will likely continue to support retention of the adult dental program during the current legislative session, and will continue to work with the Medicaid Advisory Committee and DHS to improve aspects of the program to provide quality care with an efficient use of public dollars.