A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky lawmakers set to finalize expanded Medicaid dental, vision and hearing benefits

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Kentucky lawmakers next week are expected to finalize regulations that have expanded dental, vision and hearing benefits for Medicaid beneficiaries this year. Advocates for making them permanent say greater access to these services will make Kentucky’s population healthier.

Jefferson County resident Missy Newland said she’s experienced years of pain from cracked molars and a chronic condition that affects her gums. She said she previously avoided dental treatment because of the cost. Now, Newland is more likely to visit the dentist – knowing Medicaid will cover the bulk of her treatment.

An estimated 68.5 million U.S. adults do not have dental insurance, according to new data by CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. (Photo from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“The regulations would definitely help people like my mom – people like me, people like my sister – who, if they don’t get help, they’re suffering,” she said.

Around 900,000 primarily low-income Kentuckians rely on Medicaid for their health care. According to Kentucky Voices for Health, since the new rules went into effect, Kentuckians have used their benefits for nearly 3,000 crowns, 2,000 root canals and nearly 6,000 partial or complete dentures.

For those who need them, Newland said, going without dentures often leads to a host of other health problems.

“As they get their teeth pulled, they’re losing their source of nutrition,” she said, “because your food choices are very limited if you don’t have dentures.”

Newland said her family members’ experiences of suffering from untreated tooth and gum issues shed light on the importance of access to dental care.

“I wanted to give a face to that,” she said, “and let everybody know there’s humans attached to these laws you’re making and the regulations that you put on health care.”

More than 68 million U.S. adults lack dental insurance, according to data released this week by CareQuest Institute for Oral Health.

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