Implications for the Dental Care of Vulnerable Populations if Medicaid Is Cut Back

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Abstract

Good oral health affects academic performance, employability and annual earnings, military readiness, overall health care costs, and general health status and well-being. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has enhanced the ability of many Americans to receive dental care through the expansion of Medicaid and the inclusion of pediatric oral health as 1 of the 10 “essential health benefits.” Almost all of the proposals presented by the current Congress and Administration to modify the ACA call for changes to Medicaid that would cut back funding and/or give states more control over programs. Limiting federal support to Medicaid will eventually increase the pressure on states to cut costs, and dental care is usually one of the first benefits on the chopping block. If this happens, all of the gains that have been realized as a result of the Medicaid expansion would be diminished or lost, with a significant impact on the overall health, well-being, and success of those who will suffer the consequences of a lack of access to dental care.

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