In Medicaid, dental care for adult beneficiaries is optional and is often one of the first benefits eliminated amid state budget constraints. While 47 states and Washington, DC offer some dental benefit to Medicaid-enrolled adults, only 32 cover services beyond emergency care, and only 16 offer comprehensive dental coverage. Inadequate access to dental services can lead to high rates of dental disease, costly oral health-related hospital visits, and missed work days. As more adults gain Medicaid coverage — and in some states, dental benefits — under the Affordable Care Act, state oral health stakeholders have an opportunity to make important strides in dental coverage and access for this population.

During this 90-minute webinar, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) provided an overview of adult dental coverage in Medicaid, highlighting key opportunities and challenges in advancing oral health care coverage and access. Oral health leaders from Colorado and Kentucky — both Medicaid expansion states — shared their states’ experiences expanding oral health coverage and access for low-income adults. The webinar is the first in a series from CHCS’ Advancing Dental Access, Innovation, and Quality for Adult Medicaid Beneficiaries initiative, supported by the DentaQuest Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


I. Introduction

Speaker: Stacey Chazin, Senior Program Officer, CHCS

Ms. Chazin welcomed participants, provided an overview of the webinar, and discussed the Medicaid adult dental coverage and access landscape nationally. She described strategies states have used to improve the oral health of low-income adults and previewed CHCS’ forthcoming study and technical assistance resources to support Medicaid oral health stakeholders.

II. Colorado’s Medicaid Adult Dental Benefit: What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been

Speaker: Deborah Foote, MPA, Executive Director, Oral Health Colorado

Ms. Foote shared Colorado’s experience developing an adult dental benefit, including factors that helped or hindered progress. She described how her organization, which develops and promotes statewide oral health improvement strategies, leveraged opportunities to expand dental coverage for Medicaid-enrolled adults.

III. Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services: Strategies for Improving Adult Oral Health

Speakers: Ken Rich, DMD, Dental Director, Kentucky Department for Medicaid; and Erin Hoben, JD, Chief Policy Advisor, Kentucky Department for Medicaid

Dr. Rich and Ms. Hoben discussed the history of Kentucky’s adult dental benefit, including the impact of managed care on dental service access and utilization. They shared lessons learned and key considerations for other states seeking to add, expand, or implement a Medicaid adult dental benefit.