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West Virginia Senate Passes Bill To Provide Adults On Medicaid With Dental Coverage

Jessica Hill
AP Photo
Dental hygienist Sarah Reilly cleans the teeth of Medicaid patient Rachel Bogartz at the dental office of Dr. Jonathan Knapp in Bethel, Conn., Monday, July 20, 2009.

The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would provide low-income adults with dental coverage.

Senate Bill 648 would provide a $1,000 dental benefit each year for adults in West Virginia on Medicaid. The state’s Medicaid recipients currently can receive only emergency dental services.

“To be honest, I wish it was a little bit more than $1,000, but that's a good start,” Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said. “I think we can, as we improve our financial situation, hopefully be able to increase this.”

Stollings said about 300,000 West Virginians would be positively affected by the bill.

According to a fiscal note, the proposal would make use of $11 million in state Medicaid funds, which, in turn, would be matched almost six times over with federal funding. 

Data from a survey in 2015 by the American Dental Association shows 27 percent of low income West Virginians have poor oral health. Poor oral health is linked to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

“It's going to help the overall health of the West Virginians, decrease health costs for West Virginians, it'll help with workforce,” Senate Health and Human Resources Chair Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said. “It'll touch every aspect. It would decrease the drug problem because, sometimes, the first interaction with opioids, is because you have a toothache or gum disease.”

The measure cleared the upper chamber on a 32-2 vote, with Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, and Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, voting in opposition. 

Senate Bill 648 now heads to the House of Delegates for consideration.

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