Adult Medicaid patients again will be eligible for dental care after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a measure reform of the state’s Medicaid system June 16.
After enacting wide cutbacks amid the state’s financial crisis in 2012, Gov. Quinn signed Senate Bill 741 at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, revamping Medicaid funding formulas and restoring preventative dental and podiatric care for adult patients, effective July 1.
Since 2012, adults enrolled in Medicaid suffering from tooth infections or other dental illness had little choice but to turn to hospital emergency rooms for care. In turn, local dental clinics and dental school clinics saw their patient loads dry up, cutting off learning experience for upper-classmen and forcing those patients with dental emergencies to turn to already overwhelmed hospital ERs.
The cost turned out to be enormous as well: a hospital emergency room visit costs $6,500, pushing up Medicaid costs overall as well as putting emergency dental treatment in the hands of medical professionals rather than dentists.
“This legislation is a critical step forward as we continue to reform our Medicaid system,” Governor Quinn said. “The reforms will help us modernize and streamline our Medicaid system to ensure we are working efficiently and effectively on behalf of taxpayers. Millions of Illinois residents depend on Medicaid for their health care needs and this law will help ensure we provide the services and protections they deserve.”
"We are ecstatic that that (the Legislature) reinstated the benefit,'' said Dr. Cheryl Watson-Lowry, chair of the Government Affairs and Access Advocacy Committee, noting that the Chicago Dental Society and the Illinois State Dental Society have been working hard the last two years to restore Medicaid funding for adult dental care.
"Now we need to work on getting the word out among Medicaid recipients. These are people who were turned away for dental treatment before, and now they may not realize they can apply for and get benefits," she said..
Both the Chicago Dental Society and the Illinois State Dental Society strongly advocated for the return of adult dental care for Medicaid patients.