The Bulletin Board

Senate committee shows support for expanded dental benefits under Medicaid

By: - February 2, 2022 11:34 am
Dental instruments on a $100 bill

There is broad support for expanded dental benefits. (Getty Images)

This story was updated February 2, 2022 at 12:50 a.m. with the of people who signed in to support and oppose Senate Bill 422 for Wednesday’s hearing.

A nearly two-decades-long effort to give adults on Medicaid preventative dental benefits – not only those for costly emergency care – is again gaining momentum in the Legislature. This time, though, the funding debate may be less contentious thanks to a $21 million settlement the state recently reached with a company hired to manage Medicaid pharmacy benefits.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 422 Wednesday, which would provide 80,000 adults on Medicaid coverage for routine dental care such as x-rays, fluoride, cleanings, and oral surgery that can help prevent more serious health conditions. Currently, New Hampshire is one of only 10 states where Medicaid covers only emergency care like tooth extractions.

Last year’s House Bill 103, which would similarly expand adult dental benefits but does not include the use of the settlement money, is working its way through the House.

The expanded dental coverage is expected to cost the state about $7.5 million a year because the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost for the 50,000 people on expanded Medicaid and the 30,000 on traditional Medicaid.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Democratic Sen. Cindy Rosenwald of Nashua, is proposing the state use $19 million of the settlement the state reached with Centene in early January to cover the state’s share of the cost for the first several years. The state alleged Centene had overcharged the state’s Medicaid program by at least $2.4 million.

The bill mirrors the one senators passed last year that was ultimately dropped from the budget over House members’ concerns about costs to the state. 

“I’ve been happy to work with you and other members of this committee on this project for a number of years,” Rosenwald told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday. “And I hope this is finally the year, and the committee will look favorably both on the bill and on the amendment as a reasonable and appropriate funding strategy.”

There is broad support for expanded dental benefits among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, the New Hampshire Dental Society, Northeast Delta Dental, the New Hampshire Oral Health Coalition, disability rights advocates, and the New Hampshire Nurses Association. They also have public support with 270 people registering support for the senate bill prior to Wednesday’s hearing and just six registering opposition.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]