Virginia is expanding its Medicaid program to provide a comprehensive dental benefit to poor adults, meaning more than 750,000 Virginians will be eligible for the benefit starting Thursday.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that it is part of a two-year state budget that includes $35 million in state and federal funds to provide a wide range of dental care to adults for the first time. Currently, Medicaid will pay only for emergency tooth extraction for adults. The benefit expansion includes checkups three times a year to prevent oral disease that can lead to bigger medical problems.
The safety-net program serves more than 1.8 million Virginians, including 558,000 people who receive health care coverage because of expanded eligibility.
The change will likely mean a significant jump in demand for dentists and about 1,500 dentists have committed to serving adults under the Medicaid benefit. In a letter to the Virginia Dental Association as a “fellow provider,” Gov. Ralph Northam urged dentists to participate.
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Virginia Dental Association Executive Director Ryan Dunn said more dentists will be needed. Currently, about 2,000 dentists provide dental services through Medicaid, but to get more to participate in the program, Dunn said the state must raise reimbursement rates.