This week marked the beginning of negotiations on the state's 2013-15 biennium operating budget in Olympia. Late last week, Governor Inslee unveiled his budget priorities during a press conference. On Wednesday, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus released their proposed budget. The House Democratic budget is expected to be released sometime next week.
Though increasing state funding for K-12 education is the headline, funding for adult dental Medicaid was also included in both budgets, though at different levels. Governor Inslee's budget proposed $23.8 in state funding to fully restore adult dental benefits. The Majority Coalition Caucus budget includes $9.78 million to restore "adult dental preventive and denture benefits." Both budgets call for adult dental Medicaid benefits to be reinstated January 1, 2014.
The budget language proposed by the Senate would provide all adults with a minimum dental benefit beyond the current coverage that only covers dental emergencies (which is essentially only dental extractions). The Health Care Authority, the state agency responsible for administering the Medicaid program in Washington, has clarified that preventive services will include dental cleanings but will not include dental fillings or other restorative procedures.
WSDA President Dr. Danny Warner had the following comment regarding the Senate's budget language: “Providing dental care improves overall health and significantly reduces costs. Today, the Majority Coalition Caucus took a step towards reinstating the adult dental Medicaid program. We look forward to working with the Legislature to fully restore dental coverage for the state’s most vulnerable populations.”
Both Governor Inslee and the Majority Coalition Caucus believe Washington should proceed with expanding Medicaid eligibility for more low income adults. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have been given the option to expand Medicaid eligibility to all adults who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (fpl). Initially, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid benefits for this expansion population. The federal match eventually drops to a 90 percent match in a few years. Restoring a dental benefit (meaning a dental benefit beyond the “emergent care” benefit currently available for most adults) for the existing Medicaid-eligible adults will allow the state of Washington to provide a comprehensive dental benefit for adults who will be eligible for Medicaid under Medicaid expansion.
Traditionally, legislative budget proposals are not released until after the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council’s March revenue forecast is announced. Many legislators were expecting a revenue reduction of between $200 and $300 million. Instead, the forecast projected an additional $40 million in revenue in 2013-15. The state is expecting to collect $32.5 billion in tax revenue in the upcoming biennium.
WSDA and the Coalition to Fund Dental Access are continuing to advocate for funding for the adult dental Medicaid program. The Coalition to Fund Dental Access was created in 2007 and includes WSDA, University of Washington School of Dentistry, Solid Ground, Washington Association of Community & Migrant Health Centers, Poverty Action Network, Washington Dental Service Foundation, Children's Alliance, Washington State Dental Hygienists Association, and many other organizations.
Please direct questions about the state's operating budget or the legislative process to WSDA Director of Government Affairs, Bracken Killpack at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 800-448-3368.