Oral Health

Oral health is an integral part of overall health. Good oral health and dental hygiene can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, as well as reduce the risk of complications due to chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and preterm birth.

Our Mission

Comprehensive coverage and access to oral health and dental services are often lacking for many consumers in Massachusetts. This is particularly true for underserved and high-risk populations such as low-income adults, older adults, people with disabilities, minorities, and immigrant populations.

What is HCFA doing to address the problem?

Advocating for legislative, budget and policy solutions that increase coverage and access to oral health & dental services for all persons in the Commonwealth.

Key Issue Areas:

  • Restore full MassHealth adult dental benefits for adults (age 21 – 64)
  • Authorize dental therapists to work in Massachusetts
  • Integrate medical and dental care
  • Increase access to oral health care for older adults (greater than age 55) Authorize mid-level dental care providers called Dental Therapists

Legislative Priorities

(2019-2020)

S.1212/H.1917: An Act Relative to the Restoration of MassHealth Adult Dental Benefits (Senator Chandler/Representative Honan)

As of May 2020, MassHealth only provides partial adult dental coverage which causes needless pain, suffering and illness. This bill seeks to restore full MassHealth dental benefits to more than 1 million individuals, including over 113,000 seniors and 230,000 people living with disabilities.

S.1215/H.1916: An Act to Improve Oral Health for All Massachusetts Residents (Senator Chandler/Representatives Hogan & Pignatelli)

This bill seeks to increase access to dental care by authorizing dental therapists to practice in Massachusetts. A dental therapist is a midlevel provider who works under the supervision of a dentist to provide necessary dental care such as exams, filling cavities, placing temporary crowns, and extracting loose teeth.

Policy Priorities

Integration of dental and medical care:

Include oral health and dental services as a requirement of state standards for MassHealth and commercial Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and other value-based care models. Given ACOs’ focus on whole-person health, the inclusion of oral health is critical to fully realize the potential of integrated care. Oral health integration is complex and requires a multi-pronged approach including payment and care delivery reform, provider education, and investments in health information technology.

Increase access to oral health care for older adults (age >55):

Engage older adults to mobilize and advocate for expanded access and coverage of oral health & dental services in Massachusetts, explore new opportunities for low-income seniors to participate in Senior Care Option (SC) dental plans, and develop a policy agenda & campaign that addresses the concerns and challenges older adults encounter when accessing care.

Outreach Activity

The Oral Health Advocacy Task Force (OHAT): OHAT is a broad-based statewide coalition of consumers, advocates, health care professionals, academics, and insurers. It is composed of 109 member organizations, guided by a 20-member steering committee and works closely with the Legislative Oral Health Caucus, chaired by Senate President Emeritas Harriette Chandler and Representative Kevin Honan.

Achievements

Restoration of MassHealth coverage for periodontal services to treat gum disease

Where can I find more information about this campaign?

Massachusetts’ Efforts to Integrate Oral Health into ACOs

Connecting the Mouth to the Body in Health Policy

Oral Health Integration Project Coalition Member Level of Engagement

Case Studies in Oral Health Integration

Integrating Oral and General Health: The Role of Accountable Care Organizations

Coordinated Care and Oral Health Integration in Oregon

Where can I find more information about this campaign?

Contact Health Care For All’s Policy Coordinator, Noemi Uribe.

Email Noemi to learn more

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