NH provides basic oral health coverage for adults on Medicaid after Sununu signs bills

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New Hampshire came off the list Friday of the minority of states that don’t provide adults on Medicaid benefits coverage for basic oral health care, such as regular cleanings, fluoride, and x-rays.

Flanked by a crowd of oral health advocates and lawmakers from both parties, Gov. Chris Sununu signed two bills into law that will expand coverage with $21 million the state collected in a settlement against a company it hired to manage Medicaid pharmacy benefits.

Previously, the state’s plan had covered only dental emergencies, such as tooth extractions.

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With federal matching funds, the move to expand benefits for nearly 85,000 qualifying Medicaid recipients is expected to cost the state an estimated $7.5 million or less a year. The bill’s funding is expected to be enough for the next three years.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed two bills Friday, July 1, 2022, that will provide preventive dental benefits for more than 85,000 adults on Medicaid. New Hampshire was one of a few states that provided only emergency dental coverage.
Gov. Chris Sununu signed two bills Friday, July 1, 2022, that will provide preventive dental benefits for more than 85,000 adults on Medicaid. New Hampshire was one of a few states that provided only emergency dental coverage.

Advocates and lawmakers have worked on passing these dental benefits for years. They delivered  a bill to Sununu’s desk at the start of the pandemic in 2020, but the governor vetoed it, citing uncertainty about the state’s economic future.

“You never want to provide a new benefit or a new program and then realize it has unaffordable costs that escalate beyond expectations,” he said at Friday’s bill signing. “I give a lot of credit to both sides of the aisle and both the House and Senate for working together to find a solution that makes sure (expanded coverage) is here this year, and the next year, and the next year.”

The issue: Expensive dental care leads to bad teeth, poor health and pain for many in New Hampshire

Senate Bill 422, sponsored by Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, a Nashua Democrat, passed the Senate unanimously and in the House 201-109. That bill includes the $21 million in funding. The second bill, House Bill 103, sponsored by Rep. Joe Schapiro, a Keene Democrat, ultimately passed by similar margins after Democrats agreed to Republican requirements that recipients have a co-pay.

“The passage of this bill resolves years-old differences between the House and Senate, as well as Republicans and Democrats, related to the best approach to implementing a new dental benefit within Medicaid,” said Rep. Jess Edwards, who led negotiations. “After establishing the principle that individuals are primarily responsible for their own oral health, agreement was reached in a bipartisan manner, in both legislative houses, that the dental program should properly emulate commercial insurance.”

Additional reporting: 90,800 in New HampshIre could lose Medicaid coverage. What state leaders are doing

This story was originally published by New Hampshire Bulletin.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Sununu signs: NH adds oral health coverage for adults on Medicaid