News

  • MDAC Applauds Passage of Bill to Establish Medicaid Adult Dental Coverage Pilot Program

    By MDAC April 6, 2018

    Today the Maryland General Assembly unanimously passed SB 284 –Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Dental Coverage for Adults – Pilot Program, legislation that will establish a pilot program to cover adult dental services in Medicaid. The Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC), the state’s leading non-governmental oral health policy and advocacy organization, strongly supported the bill. “The single most important step to improve the oral health – and overall health – of Marylanders is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults,” said MDAC executive director Mary Backley. “Maryland has become a model for the nation in improving the oral health of children. The passage of SB 284 is an important step forward as we work to do the same for adults.” Many Maryland adults have serious oral health issues that drive them to the emergency room with tooth pain and oral infections. Emergency rooms are unable to treat the causes of dental pain, so they treat the symptoms and send patients home with antibiotics, pain medications, or referrals for dental services that patients may not be able to afford. In fiscal year 2016, Maryland adults made 42,327 emergency department visits for chronic dental conditions, with an average charge of $537 per visit, or a total charge of $22.7 million. These visits represent almost two percent of overall emergency room costs. Medicaid paid for 53 percent of those visits, even though Medicaid participants only account for 15 percent of the adult population in Maryland - likely the result of a lack of consistent adult dental coverage in the Medicaid program. “MDAC applauds Senator Thomas Middleton, Senator Guy Guzzone and Delegate Mike McKay for their leadership and support of SB 284, and the Maryland General Assembly for its passage,” said Salliann Alborn, chair of the MDAC policy committee. “Many Maryland adults face serious financial obstacles to obtaining dental care. This pilot program is an important step forward in demonstrating that a Medicaid adult dental benefit that enables adults to establish a dental home, obtain preventive care, and avert costly dental conditions is a good investment in health outcomes and the fiscal health of Medicaid.” Read more →

  • MDAC Releases 5-Year Roadmap to Improved Oral Health in Maryland

    By MDAC March 13, 2018

    (COLUMBIA, MD - March 13, 2018) – The Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC) has released the Maryland Oral Health Plan 2018-2023 (MOHP), a five-year roadmap to improved oral health for all Marylanders. The plan builds on the oral health improvements achieved since the release of the first state plan in 2011, identifies critical remaining gaps, and outlines strategies to expand access to oral health care, prevent oral disease and injury, and improve the oral health and overall health of all Marylanders. Since the issuance of the first plan in 2011, the collective efforts of MDAC and its members, partners and oral health stakeholders statewide have made Maryland a model for the nation in improving the oral health of its children. Although dental caries is the most chronic disease of children and adolescents, improved access to oral health care through the Medicaid program, preventive programs such as dental sealants, and statewide oral health literacy campaigns have improved the oral health status of Maryland’s children. The vast majority of Maryland’s public school children have no unmet dental treatment needs, and less than 1% have any type of urgent need. The state now meets or exceeds Healthy People 2020 national targets. The updated plan notes the need to do the same for adults. Too many Maryland adults face serious financial obstacles to obtaining dental care, which puts many of our most vulnerable citizens at risk of untreated pain and serious health issues. The single most important step to improve the oral health of Maryland adults is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults. MDAC and its coalition partners strongly support Maryland Senate Bill 284, sponsored by Senators Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles County) and Guy Guzzone (D-Howard County), which would add a basic adult dental benefit to Medicaid and enable adults to establish a dental home, obtain preventative dental care, and avert costly chronic dental conditions. “Oral health is a part of overall health” said MDAC Executive Director Mary Backley. “Oral health affects systemic health, including conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Oral health also affects quality of life – our ability to eat, speak and be pain free. The goals outlined in the Maryland Oral Health Plan are critical steps forward to improve the oral health – and overall health – of Marylanders of all ages and enable them to lead happy, healthy and productive lives.” Read more →

  • Oral Health Advocates Call on Maryland to Provide Basic Dental Benefits to Adults on Medicaid

    By MDAC February 7, 2018

    Legislation heard today before the Maryland General Assembly Senate Finance Committee would provide a basic dental benefit to adult Medicaid recipients. Oral health experts and patients called on the state to improve access to preventive dentistry for nearly 700,000 Marylanders who face overwhelming financial obstacles to obtaining dental care and as a result cost the state millions in repeated emergency room visits for chronic pain and infections. Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Dental Coverage for Adults (SB 284), a bill introduced by Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, requires the state to fund a basic adult dental benefit through Medicaid. The bill would help Marylanders who might have otherwise relied on the emergency room for treatment of chronic oral health conditions establish a dental home and obtain preventive oral health care. "Basic dental coverage will divert thousands of low income Marylanders from expensive and ultimately fruitless trips to the emergency room while also saving the state millions of dollars. The legislation ensures that Maryland provides limited dental coverage as part of the Medicaid program. A small investment in oral health will ease much suffering and save money,” said Senator Middleton. The need for adult dental coverage in Medicaid is great. Although dental professionals statewide strive to help at-need patients through programs that offer low-cost care, or through non-profits that offer free services, it is not enough. The struggle to obtain needed dental care puts many of our most vulnerable citizens at risk of untreated pain and serious health issues. Mary Backley, executive director of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, said, “The single most important step to improving the oral health – and overall health – of Marylanders is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults. Maryland has become a model for the nation in improving the oral health of children. Now we need to do the same for adults.” In 34 states, adults who qualify for Medicaid get dental coverage. Maryland is one of just 16 states that does not have adult dental coverage in its Medicaid program. Through the Maryland General Assembly’s unanimous support of Senate Bill 169, the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC) studied the cost of emergency room visits by adults with chronic dental conditions. In fiscal year 2016, Maryland adults made 42,327 emergency department visits for chronic dental conditions, with an average charge of $537 per visit, or a total charge of $22.7 million. Medicaid paid for 53% of those visits, even though Medicaid participants only account for 15% of the adult population in Maryland. This discrepancy is likely the result of the lack of consistent adult dental coverage in the Medicaid program. Read more →

  • Maryland Spends $10 Million on Emergency Room Visits to Treat Symptoms Rather than Causes of Chronic Dental Conditions

    By MDAC January 24, 2018

    (ANNAPOLIS, MD – January 24, 2018) – Improved access to preventative oral health care could reduce the cost of emergency room visits for chronic dental conditions, according to a recent study by the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC), the state’s leading non-governmental oral health policy and advocacy organization. The study found that in fiscal year 2016, Maryland adults made 42,327 emergency department visits for chronic dental conditions, with an average charge of $537 per visit, or a total charge of $22.7 million. Legislative briefings held today before the MD Senate Finance and House Health and Government Operations Committees reviewed the study’s findings and explored how $10 million in Medicaid funds might be reinvested to establish an adult dental benefit in Medicaid. "Basic dental coverage will divert thousands of low income Marylanders from expensive and ultimately fruitless trips to the emergency room while also saving the state millions of dollars. The legislation I introduced today ensures that Maryland provides limited dental coverage as part of the Medicaid program. A small investment in oral health will ease much suffering and save money,” said MD Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Dental Coverage for Adults (SB 284), introduced by Sen. Middleton, will require Medicaid to provide a limited adult dental benefit so that Marylanders who might have otherwise relied on the emergency room for treatment will be able to establish a dental home, obtain preventive oral health care, and avert costly chronic dental conditions. MDAC and its coalition partners applaud Senator Middleton’s efforts to ensure that low-income adults in Maryland have access to oral health care. Many Maryland adults face serious financial obstacles to obtaining dental care, which can lead to serious oral health issues and drive people to the emergency room with tooth pain and oral infections. Emergency rooms are unable to treat the causes of dental pain, so they treat the symptoms and send patients home with antibiotics, pain medications, or referrals for dental services that patients may not be able to afford. The high cost of treating symptoms in an emergency room without treating the underlying dental condition is costly, ineffective, and a poor use of resources. Mary Backley, executive director of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, said, “The single most important step to improving the oral health – and overall health – of Marylanders is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults. Maryland has become a model for the nation in improving the oral health of children. Now we need to do the same for adults.” Read more →

  • Racial Disparities in Emergency Department Utilization for Dental/Oral Health-Related Conditions in Maryland

    By Natalia I. Chalmers, DDC, Ph.D August 25, 2017

    Hospital emergency departments (EDs) are a place where many Americans seek treatment of dental conditions. Racial and ethnic minorities consistently have higher rates of ED utilization than whites for dental conditions. The reasons for these disparities and significant public health concerns are investigated less often. In this paper, we measure trends in racial disparities in ED discharges for dental conditions in Maryland from 2010 to 2013. To understand these disparities, we also describe differences between racial groups in age, gender, income, location, payer, comorbidities, and the availability of dental care. Read more →