Because of federal regulations, the state of Alaska is reinstituting the Adult Enhanced Dental Program and retroactively covering procedures, the Department of Health and Social Services said in a news release Friday.

The program covers preventative dental procedures like cleanings and fillings; about 30,000 Alaskans were part of the program in 2018. The $27 million for the program was cut this summer when Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed it, along with $50 million from the state Medicaid budget.

After a temporary extension, the program expired on Oct. 1.

DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum decided to reinstate the program after working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This agency advised that, under the Affordable Care Act, most of the dental services that the program provided had to continue.

Given the complexity of the rules, Crum says he decided the best choice was to reinstate the program.

“After many months of discussions and a full review of all of the options, DHSS determined the best way to meet our obligation to Medicaid recipients and to maintain the fiscal integrity of the program was to reinstate the Adult Enhanced Dental Program,” Crum said in the release.

In an email Friday, House Health and Social Services Committee Co-chair Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky said the program provides essential services that prevent the need for more expensive procedures down the road.

"Without this critical program, Alaskans would only be able to access emergent dental coverage for high cost procedures that often must be conducted by an oral surgeon. Shifting costs and deferring spending does not save money, which is particularly true in healthcare," she wrote. 

The department will review all claims that have been denied since Oct. 1 and provide benefits under the original program, including the annual limit of $1,150 for services. 

People with Medicaid and health care providers will be notified of the reinstatement next week.

Funding for the program is included in the governor’s fiscal year 2021 budget — $8.3 million coming from state general funds with a federal match of $18.7 million.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the cost of the program.

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