MaineCare health insurance for low-income residents upgrades its dental plan

The first day of July marks the beginning of a new era in Maine’s taxpayer-funded health insurance with a significant expansion of the dental care coverage.Instead of covering only emergency care, MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, will now also cover preventive, restorative, and diagnostic care.Already 75 dentists have agreed to accept those patients.One of them is Dr. Kailee Williams, who practices with Waterville Community Dental Center, in Oakland.Williams said, “It’s always been the passion behind my practice in the first place to serve the under-served. I’m from a rural county in upstate New York that struggles with a lot of the same things that we see patients struggle here in Maine with.”Overall, 217,000 adults with MaineCare, 15% of the state population, are now eligible for the dental plan.The 140,000 children enrolled in MaineCare already receive dental coverage.MaineCare health insurance for low-income residents upgrades its dental planWilliams said, “Basic preventive services are the ones that are going to get the bacteria out of your mouths, that are ones that are going to identify places that need to be restored, and those are the ways we can get ahead of oral disease.”But the coverage extension is too late for MaineCare recipient Stephanie Chase, who went years with only emergency dental care while working part-time jobs with no benefits in retail and food service.Chase said, “Preventative care could have saved me from having dentures at 29. My first cavity, I got it when I was 21. By 25, some of my teeth were missing. By 29, I had to have the majority of my teeth pulled, and I was told that if I’d had preventive care at a younger age, it could have made a difference.”Until now, Maine was one of only ten states that provided emergency-only dental treatment through Medicaid.The law changing that was sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, who grew up in Biddeford without access to a dentist, and received bipartisan support.Williams said MaineCare has improved its reimbursement rates to entice dentists to participate.“It’s also more exciting for me to treat more complicated patients with needs that are a little bit harder to meet, but a little bit more rewarding,” she said.Chase volunteered with Maine Equal Justice to lobby legislators for the coverage expansion.Chase said, “Unemployment, I think, is high among people with dental problems because it doesn’t just affect how you look, it affects your health. I mean there were times that I was waking up with cavities that would have in pain in the floor.”While the expansion of dental coverage has costs, legislators who approved it also figured the state will save $17 million a year it had been paying through MaineCare for avoidable, emergency dental treatment. Williams said, “She said, “Oral health care is health care. Oral health is a critical component of your general health.”

The first day of July marks the beginning of a new era in Maine’s taxpayer-funded health insurance with a significant expansion of the dental care coverage.

Instead of covering only emergency care, MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, will now also cover preventive, restorative, and diagnostic care.

Already 75 dentists have agreed to accept those patients.

One of them is Dr. Kailee Williams, who practices with Waterville Community Dental Center, in Oakland.

Williams said, “It’s always been the passion behind my practice in the first place to serve the under-served. I’m from a rural county in upstate New York that struggles with a lot of the same things that we see patients struggle here in Maine with.”

Overall, 217,000 adults with MaineCare, 15% of the state population, are now eligible for the dental plan.

The 140,000 children enrolled in MaineCare already receive dental coverage.

MaineCare health insurance for low-income residents upgrades its dental plan

Williams said, “Basic preventive services are the ones that are going to get the bacteria out of your mouths, that are ones that are going to identify places that need to be restored, and those are the ways we can get ahead of oral disease.”

But the coverage extension is too late for MaineCare recipient Stephanie Chase, who went years with only emergency dental care while working part-time jobs with no benefits in retail and food service.

Chase said, “Preventative care could have saved me from having dentures at 29. My first cavity, I got it when I was 21. By 25, some of my teeth were missing. By 29, I had to have the majority of my teeth pulled, and I was told that if I’d had preventive care at a younger age, it could have made a difference.”

Until now, Maine was one of only ten states that provided emergency-only dental treatment through Medicaid.

The law changing that was sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, who grew up in Biddeford without access to a dentist, and received bipartisan support.

Williams said MaineCare has improved its reimbursement rates to entice dentists to participate.

“It’s also more exciting for me to treat more complicated patients with needs that are a little bit harder to meet, but a little bit more rewarding,” she said.

Chase volunteered with Maine Equal Justice to lobby legislators for the coverage expansion.

Chase said, “Unemployment, I think, is high among people with dental problems because it doesn’t just affect how you look, it affects your health. I mean there were times that I was waking up with cavities that would have in pain in the floor.”

While the expansion of dental coverage has costs, legislators who approved it also figured the state will save $17 million a year it had been paying through MaineCare for avoidable, emergency dental treatment.

Williams said, “She said, “Oral health care is health care. Oral health is a critical component of your general health.”

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