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Lawmakers Plan to Reintroduce Dental Benefits for Blind, Disabled

Andrea Smardon
University of Utah School of Dentistry

 The University of Utah School of Dentistry says it will help pay for dental services provided to disabled and blind patients if the state returns to offering them through Medicaid.  

Utah Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St.George, plan to introduce a bill to the legislature that would restore dental benefits for disabled and blind patients enrolled in Medicaid. Last week Eliason told members of the state Health Care Reform Task Force that the bill is not part of an effort to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“It is a partial restoration of dental benefits that has been previously offered, but when it was previously offered, it was offered to a broader group. This is more narrow,” he said.

The last time those benefits were offered was in 2009, when about half of the 40,000 eligible Medicaid patients used the dental benefits. Eliason predicts should the benefits become available, there will be a higher demand in the first few years due to a pent-up need.

Officials with the University of Utah School of Dentistry says it will help pay the state’s portion of the cost and accept federal reimbursement. Dr. Glen Hanson is Dean of the dental school.

“The oral health care is a critical factor in providing essential care for comprehensive health,” he said.

Hanson added that the mouth is often a site of infections and diseases, and that oral care can diminish other health problems.

The Health Care Reform Task Force accepted the proposal as a bill. The full legislature will address it when it convenes for the general session next year.

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