Adults in Arizona who receive Medicaid do not receive financial assistance when seeking preventative dental care. Because only emergency dental procedures are covered, Medicaid recipients who are experiencing poor oral health must often wait until their condition deteriorates to merit an emergency procedure. The costs associated with these procedures are significant, and the consequences of not encouraging preventative dental procedures include increased visits to the emergency room for dental reasons, productivity decline, and a reduction in general life satisfaction for those with poor oral health. Specifically, poor oral health impairs economic and social mobility, making it harder to find a job, reducing participation in social activities, and causing others to perceive those with oral health problems more negatively.
This paper explores the trends associated with oral health and estimates the various costs associated with dental emergencies. The fiscal and economic impacts of two different designs of adult preventative medicaid benefits are analyzed: a limited benefit level, which provides a restricted set of procedures, and an extensive benefit level, which allows most procedures but places a $1,000 annual cap on preventative and emergency care combined.
This report finds that a limited adult medical dental benefit would cost the state $32 million annually and after 10 years in a steady-state in constant dollars cost $35 million. The extensive benefit would cost $61 million immediately and $65 million after ten years. Table 1 provides a summary of these findings.
The dental benefit will also eventually pull in new federal dollars, $71 million for the limited benefit and $135 million for the extensive benefit, which with a 1.8 multiplier brings an additional $57 million and $108 million respectively in Arizona economic activity. Consequently, for each dollar invested by the state in improved dental health yields $4 more in additional economic activity (see Figure 1). This will result in additional state revenue of $4 million from a limited expansion and $8 million from an extensive expansion.