People Are Suffering Without Necessary Dental Care

On behalf of concerned Michigan residents and 38 organizations including Michigan Primary Care Association, the Michigan League for Human Services sent the Michigan Legislature a plea this week to restore optional Medicaid benefits. Below is the text of the plea that was sent.

Elimination of Medicaid adult dental services, as well as the other federally defined “optional” services, is causing suffering and threatening the lives of the most vulnerable people in Michigan. Lower-cost prevention care is being sacrificed for questionable short-term savings. Restoring these services could help keep Medicaid adult recipients healthy and save money in the long run.

The July 1 elimination of dental benefits has already had severe consequences. Officials with a dental clinic treating an elderly developmentally disabled woman in Northern Michigan said her condition was complicated by a severe dental infection that they were not able to effectively treat because of the cancellation of dental benefits. She died October 7 in an Alpena hospital.

The family of another disabled Michigan man says he developed a serious oral infection. His teeth were so bad that they posed a risk of choking so they were pulled. Now the man has no ability to get dentures because of the lack of dental benefits. His food intake is limited without teeth and is threatening his health.

In addition, the State of Michigan must defend a lawsuit filed on behalf of 400,000 Medicaid beneficiaries for the cancellation of dental benefits. The lawsuit contends that thousands of Michigan residents with marginal resources will be more vulnerable to debilitating and potentially life-threatening illnesses.

Lower-cost dental services, as well as vision, chiropractic, and podiatric care are necessary to avoid complications that are expensive to treat in Michigan’s emergency rooms or intensive care units.

In addition, for the savings of $5 million state dollars, Michigan will lose $16 million in federal dollars to pay dental providers to provide services in the appropriate setting.

How many deaths or hours of suffering will it take to restore these services to provide lower cost care to protect our most vulnerable citizens from painful, avoidable conditions?

These are just a couple of examples of the impact of these harsh budget cuts. Policymakers must understand that budgets are not just numbers to be balanced on paper, they are about real peoples’ lives and deaths.

See the Detroit News coverage

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