CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – The West Virginia Senate passed a bill on Wednesday, Feb. 26th that would provide dental coverage to low-income adults on Medicaid.
Senate Bill 648 is now before the House Health and Human Resources Committee and proposes to expand oral care services to West Virginians 21 and older on Medicaid.
Each adult on Medicaid will receive $1,000 annually in dental care, which bill sponsors say is a step in the right direction.
“A thousand dollars of oral doesn’t go real far, but we hope over a few years, you know, the patient will have a restored mouth and therefore have a lot better overall general health,” said State Sen. Ron Stollings, (D) Boone.
All states are required to provide dental benefits to children covered by Medicaid, but it’s up to the individual state to provide dental benefits to adults.
Executive Director with the West Virginia Dental Association, Richard Stevens said, “the potential for improving not only oral health care but a person’s overall health is significant and is affordable under this program.”
Adding these benefits would cost West Virginia $11 million, but is doable because the state currently has a Medicaid surplus.
Those funds would then be matched almost six times by the federal government.
If passed, bill sponsors say this could specifically help the elderly and those in recovery.
“A lot of these folks don’t have good transportation. It’s a tough situation so we’re treating the symptoms instead of trying to treat the real problem when that is getting the tooth out of there,” said Sen. Stollings.
Currently, there are about 530,000 West Virginians covered by Medicaid.