Cutting dental coverage might cost states more

There are a couple of states that have an important decision to make regarding adult dental coverage under Medicaid.

Missouri and Illinois face upcoming budget cuts and must decide whether to keep adult dental coverage. If they cut the coverage, will the states actually be saving money? The University of Iowa researched this issue and came up with some interesting findings.

The study from University of Iowa researchers looked at California, which decided to end adult dental coverage under Medicaid in mid-2009. Some 3.5 million low-income adults in the Golden State lost dental benefits. The researchers found those adults made more than 1,800 additional visits annually to hospital emergency departments for dental care after losing the benefit. In all, California spent $2.9 million each year in Medicaid costs for dental care in emergency departments, up from $1.6 million before the state eliminated the adult dental care benefit. That's a 68 percent increase in costs, when factoring inflation.

Other states had similar results when they cut adult dental benefits. Oregon almost doubled its emergency room dental visits and Maryland saw a 12 percent rise in such visits.

Emergency rooms aren't equipped to solve most dental problems. Most ER's don't perform extractions or root canals. They only provide pain medicine. This of course, does not take care of the problem. Plus, these visits are more costly than a trip to the dentist.

The people that have their benefits cut tend to be those in the lower income bracket.

Young adults, members of racial/ethnic minority groups, and urban residents were disproportionately affected by the change, the researchers found.

Only 15 states carry comprehensive dental benefits for low-income adults.

Missouri and Illinois have tough decisions to make concerning budget cuts. Cutting adult dental benefits, according to research, might end up costing the states more money for insufficient dental care.