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2019 Legislative Wins Set Stage for Expanded Access to Oral Health Care:Trends to Watch in 2020

2019 Legislative Wins Set Stage for Expanded Access to Oral Health Care: Trends to Watch in 2020

January 2020, Jane Koppelman, PEW

Summarized by: Elise Zlotnikova (ASDA Legislative Liaison)

In 2019, many changes in oral health policy across the United States have increased access to oral health care. Virginia, Delaware, and New Hampshire added limited dental benefits to their Medicaid programs. Currently, 34 states offer dental benefits beyond emergency care for adults with Medicaid. New legislature has also allowed for the expansion of dental therapy in Connecticut, Nevada, and New Mexico with the goal of improving dental services in underserved areas. Dental therapists are mid-level providers that provide dental treatment under the supervision of a dentist. Oregon created a pilot program for dental therapist training, with the first class of 10 dental therapists starting in February 2020. Consolidation of dental practices has remained a trend throughout 2019. DSOs are predicted to control 30 percent of dental practices by 2021, and the number of solo practitioners is declining. Group practice models are favored for their reduced overhead, especially due to low insurance reimbursement rates and an increasing Medicaid market. The 2020 surgeon general’s report on oral health is expected to be released in the Fall, marking 20 years since its first publication in 2000. The report is expected to highlight oral health disparities among low-income, minority groups, and the elderly. Ultimately, the legislative changes made in 2019 have set the stage for continued progress in oral health policymaking in 2020 and beyond.

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