Senate Finance Advances Dental Coverage Bill

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The Senate Finance Committee met at 3:00 p.m. and discussed SB 648, which expands the Medicaid program to include dental coverage for adults, establishes an amount of coverage available, and identifies the responsible state department and provides authority for emergency rulemaking. The bill states that the Department of Health and Human Resources is responsible for funding and the promotion of access and quality, as well as maintaining healthcare infrastructure.

One reason for this bill is many states who reduced their dental coverage under Medicaid reported increases in dental-related visits to the Emergency Department. Another reason is to provide West Virginians with disabilities and/or limited access to a dentist can receive assistance. The bill also finds that West Virginians have increasingly turned to opioids to manage painful oral diseases.

Jeremiah Staples, a representative from the Department of Health and Human Resources, stated his support for the bill and answered questions from the committee. The main concern from the committee was fiscal responsibility and weighing costs. The representative stated that the bill calls for a full fiscal analysis and savings are anticipated.

Another advocate for the bill rose to say that she has seen several cases in her place of work where people require preventative care. “Emergency care is always more expensive than preventative care,” she said. The bill was advanced to be reported to the full Senate.

The committee also advanced Senate bills 729, 738 and Originating bill 6.