Alaskans lose Medicaid dental benefits after Dunleavy budget cuts
After Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $50 million from the state's Medicaid budget last week, some Alaskans are already starting to feel the effects.
A large chunk of those cuts — $27 million — eliminates dental benefits for adults on Medicaid that in 2018 included approximately 30,000 Alaskans.
On Monday, Anchorage Dental Group began calling its Medicaid patients to tell them their dental benefits were gone. Office Manager Candace Fleming said that included some patients whose treatment wasn’t finished yet.
“So now a I have a couple of patients that we’ve started dentures on that are not going to be covered,” she said. “We just kind of have to discuss that with them personally.”
The cuts eliminate all services including preventative care like cleanings and fillings — the kind of things that Dr. James Hyer said can keep small problems from getting worse.
“And unfortunately that will lead to greater tooth loss among our poorest population who can least afford to pay for it,” Hyer said.
Hyer said the dental community was expecting some cuts, but many were surprised that the entire program had been eliminated. He says dental issues left untreated can have serious consequences.
“I think that as professionals and as people within society we owe it to the other members of the society to provide at least a pain free existence and so it’s a little bit of a challenge in that respect,” Hyer said.
Hyer said his office will work with people to help them get care, but at this point it’s hard to say what that care will look like.
The state said services to children on Medicaid are not impacted by the budget cuts and that adults who need emergency care for immediate relief of pain or acute infection will still be covered.
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