Dental services are becoming an increasingly important necessity for older adults. Though these adults often experience pain, difficulty chewing, and weight loss because of poor dental care, for many of them, it’s just not affordable.
There is some good news for patients in Colorado, however. The last session of the State Legislature saw the expansion of coverage for older adults in need of dental care. Starting on July 1, 2014, adults older than 18 who receive Medicaid may also be granted $1,000 per year to cover dental costs.
The services covered by this new addition to Medicaid include regular check-ups, cleanings, fillings, extractions and X-rays, and the money can also be put toward procedures like crowns and root canals.
Medicaid recipients can also apply to receive $1,450 every seven years to help pay for partial or full dentures. This is especially good news for low income older adults experiencing severe tooth decay after years of avoiding the dentist.
If a patient needs to pay more for a procedure than what the $1,000 Medicaid benefit allows, patients may fund part of the procedure privately, while still paying the same rate they would if they were using the Medicaid benefit alone. This is only available for procedures that exceed the $1,000 price cap.
This coverage will only be available from dentists who accept Medicaid. The dentist will often receive less of a payment from Medicaid payments, but more and more dentists are accepting it due to high demand.
For seniors who may not be able to leave their home or assisted living center to visit a dentist, Medicaid will often cover visits from mobile dental labs who visit low-income residences to provide care.
In the same session, the legislature also approved the former OAP Dental Program, now known as the Low Income Senior Dental Program. Potential applicants must be age 60 and over to receive the benefits, since enrollment in the Medicare Savings Program is required to qualify for the new dental program.
However, low income seniors may be able to apply with the help of a counselor if they make less than $1,330 a month and own less than $8,660 in assets.
Grants for the program are provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which supports dental clinics and private dentists who provide seniors with dental care.
More and more individuals are aging with all their teeth, which means more states may have to implement measures like the ones in Colorado to support the oral health of their senior population.