SB11: University of Utah dental school would treat Medicaid patients

SB11 would allow Medicaid patients to be treated by the University of Utah School of Dentistry. (Savannah Hopkinson)

SB11, a Medicaid dental coverage amendments bill, would add the University of Utah School of Dentistry to the list of Medicaid adult dental service providers.

“It has a zero fiscal note on it,” said bill sponsor Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden. “The University of Utah dental school has a need for additional patients. The university will pick up the state’s portion of the federal match — that is the 30 percent of the federal match, so the state doesn’t have to pay anything on this particular one.”

The Medicaid patients covered by the bill would be required to receive their care through the University of Utah dental school or its associates throughout the state.

Lauren Chamberlain, a gerontology graduate student at the University of Utah and intern for the American Association of Retired Persons, expressed the organization’s support for the bill.

“There is considerable evidence showing that access to oral healthcare is not only beneficial to individuals’ quality of life and their self-esteem, but it also is important to help improve overall healthcare, considering its links to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and increased risk for stroke,” Chamberlain said. “As oral health declines in old age, one of the first issues that arises is poor nutrition. Individuals begin eating softer, less nutritious foods which leads to poor physical health overall.”

Stacy Sanford, a health policy analyst at the Utah Health Policy Project, also expressed her organization’s support for the bill.

“We think this is a step in the right direction towards integrating oral health and recognizing that nose-to-chin is also an important part of the healthcare system,” Sanford said.

An additional part of the bill directs the Department of Health to apply to the federal government for a waiver to provide coverage for porcelain and porcelain-to-metal crowns.

“Currently they can only receive a stainless-steel crown as opposed to a white one,” Christensen said.

G. Lynn Powell, assistant dean of the University of Utah dental school, said the school supports the bill and is “very happy” to treat the Medicaid patients.

“It’s important that we also have the amendment because stainless steel crowns as currently being provided for them are usually for an adult a temporary restoration,” Powell said. “They are not designed to be permanent restorations for adults.”

Christensen is also sponsoring SB96, a bill which would replace Prop. 3 Medicaid expansion and faces opposition from citizens.

“I do not hate Medicaid patients, and I do watch out for their medical care and dental care when I can find a place where it works within budget,” Christensen said.

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