Lawmakers push to restore MassHealth dental coverage

Many MassHealth recipients cannot afford to pay for dental care

BOSTON (WWLP) – Many of the state’s low-income residents don’t have access to dental care. But lawmakers are pushing to provide them with full coverage through MassHealth under a state proposal.

You might think a simple tooth ache isn’t a big deal, but without proper care, it could send you to the emergency room.

“If you have not the money to pay for it, the last thing you’re going to want to do is pay for a dentist,” said Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester).

Chandler told 22News doctors will prescribe pain medication to ease a tooth ache, but it doesn’t solve the problem and can lead to bigger issues like addiction.

“Pain medicine we now know can be very addictive,” Chandler said. “We’re not only not curing the problem, but we’re building ourselves into an addiction problem.”

Many people who are on MassHealth cannot afford to pay for dental care, which the state used to cover. State Representative John Scibak (D-South Hadley) filed a bill that would restore oral health benefits for MassHealth recipients.

The proposal could face issues getting funding from the state at a time when lawmakers face budget difficulties. But Scibak told 22News, if the state doesn’t fund dental coverage now, taxpayers will have to pick up the bill in the long run.

“Providing full coverage for dental care we may actually forestall and prevent some of the more expensive costs if that person ultimately sees those medical problems or medical complications,” Scibak said.

The bill is currently under review by the state’s Public Health Committee. The public can give their input on the bill at a hearing before the Committee next month at the State House.