Joint Budget Committee Votes to Restore Funding for Dental Items

Molly PereiraFeatured News

In March 2021, the state’s Joint Budget Committee (JBC) considered funding for a number of dental items – with great news for the dental community. While these decisions are not final until budget balancing is complete and the long bill is through the legislative process, the JBC’s initial recommendations hold in more cases than not. Below are additional updates on the five JBC decision items that have dental benefit impacts.

    • Adult Dental Cap – The JBC voted to restore the adult dental annual cap to $1,500 (after a reduction to $1,000 in last year’s budget cuts). This cap decrease was fortunately never implemented due to federal matching funding extensions that have prevented reduction to Medicaid benefits. 
    • Copays – During last year’s budget balancing, the JBC had voted to impose copays for Medicaid patients accessing a number of services, including dental for the next two years. This would have resulted in a $4 patient copay for many dental services, which can be a barrier to access or a de facto provider rate reduction if providers waive the copay. Once again, patient copays were never been implemented due to the restrictions associated with an increased federal match described above. The JBC voted to eliminate these copays.
    • Senior Dental Program – The JBC voted to restore the $1M funding cut made to this program last year for future budget years. This would restore the total program funding to $4M beginning in July 2021, allowing more seniors to be served under the program. Thanks to Jennifer Miles for leading the conversations with JBC members on this item.
    • Preventive Dental Hygiene for IDD Patients – HCPF had proposed to cut a small fund used for education and outreach on preventive dental hygiene services for patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Recognizing the value of prevention, the JBC voted to maintain this funding.
    • Community Provider Rate – The JBC voted to increase the Medicaid community provider rate across all provider types by 2.5% beginning in July 2021 – which would positively affect dental provider rates. This is the item most typically adjusted, if needed, during budget balancing actions – as any adjustment to the percentage results in a large impact to the state budget.