Adult Dental Benefits in Medicaid: Recent Experiences from Seven States

Oral health is an important part of overall health, however, access to dental coverage for low-income adults remains a challenge, particularly since these benefits are optional for state Medicaid programs. This brief summarizes policy lessons from seven states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington) that have recently added, reinstated, or enhanced their Medicaid adult dental benefits. These states took a variety of approaches—including incrementally extending benefits to populations like pregnant women—and all attempted to do so in a fiscally sustainable way that provides meaningful access for program enrollees. Important factors in their decisions included funding opportunities through the Affordable Care Act, personal engagement by high-level state policymakers, building on lessons from improvements to children’s access to dental care, and strong partnerships with dental associations and oral health coalitions.

Accompanying case studies provide an in-depth look at each state’s choices on adult dental benefits.

A companion webinar features a conversation with state officials from Colorado, Iowa, and Washington about their experience with Medicaid adult dental benefits.

This project was supported by the DentaQuest Foundation.