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April is Medicaid Awareness
Month: What Coverage Means for Oral Healthcare

For Medicaid Awareness Month this April, Benevis is reflecting on the shifting requirements for dental healthcare coverage in the U.S. Underserved communities are not only impacted, but it also affects Americans across socioeconomic statuses, as coverage for all dental services is not guaranteed through Medicaid or private insurance plans. Access to quality dental care should be easy, especially when it’s essential.

Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) plans are crucial in providing healthcare for children and adults, particularly those from disadvantaged families. Coverage is so important as it enables access to preventive care services such as regular check-ups and routine cleanings, ensuring early detection and intervention for dental disease, preventing more serious and costly problems to treat later. For families with limited financial resources, medical expenses from expensive dental care can also be a significant burden. Medicaid and CHIP alleviate this trouble by covering the costs of essential oral health services, meaning families do not have to choose between paying for dental care and other basic needs. These plans are vital in improving health outcomes and quality of life for millions of individuals and families across the U.S.

As a leading dental healthcare and orthodontics delivery organization committed to providing quality care to underserved communities, Benevis has a 20-year history of providing the highest quality care to approximately five million children and adults, including 82% who are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP plans. In fact, the organization is among the 18% of dental providers that manage 100 plus child Medicaid visits each year. Clinical teams working in more than 120 underserved communities deliver an experience that’s personalized to every patient’s health and lifestyle needs to better care for diverse populations.

However, the recent unwinding of the Medicaid continuous enrollment provision has left many without coverage. In 2023, the dental divide grew by the millions. Americans in all states have been reconsidered for their Medicaid and CHIP plans and lost health/dental coverage due to the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. As of April 11, 2024, more than 20 million Medicaid beneficiaries were disenrolled based on current data cited by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Although data are limited, children accounted for roughly four in ten (37%) Medicaid disenrollments in the 21 states reporting age breakouts.

Medicaid and CHIP cover more than one in four Americans, providing health benefits with little to no out-of-pocket cost for millions, including many from underserved communities. To protect beneficiaries across all 50 states amidst the unwinding process, the Biden Administration released a federal final rule Streamlining the Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Basic Health Program Application, Eligibility Determination, Enrollment, and Renewal Processes to “protect and improve how millions of eligible people apply for, renew, and maintain healthcare coverage.” The federal ruling will protect eligible children and adults by ensuring they encounter fewer barriers to maintaining their healthcare coverage. Benevis commends this ruling and federal step to strengthen Medicaid and CHIP coverage.

Expanding Access to Equitable Dental Healthcare 

To deliver on its mission to expand access to oral healthcare, Benevis’ network of like-minded, community-focused dentists are prioritizing patient health to make a national impact. Core to that work, Benevis has hosted Sharing Smiles Day for the past eight years to provide dental relief to over 3,000 patients across 13 states and the District of Columbia to combat poor oral health at no cost. The mission of Sharing Smiles Day is for every family to have equitable access to quality dental care in a clean, safe, and fun environment. The volunteer event features commitment from some of its 100 Benevis dental homes to provide quality and compliant dental care to children and families in communities that typically are overlooked by general dentists, often uninsured or Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries.

This year’s event is critical when millions have lost insurance coverage. The 2024 Sharing Smiles Day event will take place on Sunday, May 19, with volunteers from Benevis dental homes in key markets such as Georgia, Texas, Maryland, Louisiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky, and more. Care teams will administer dental exams, limited emergency care, extractions, and restorative care, with cleanings offered on a limited basis to children and adults, and educate families to prioritize daily brushing, flossing, and the importance of good nutrition for a healthy smile. It is recommended that patients make an appointment at their local office.

Benevis and its care teams remain committed to serving disadvantaged patients through the volunteer event and daily work to close dental health disparity gaps for Medicaid and CHIP patients.