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Expansion of dental benefits

Published (3/11/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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Minnesotans who receive dental coverage through Medical Assistance would see some lost benefits restored, under a bill receiving committee approval March 4.

Rep. Julie Bunn (DFL-Lake Elmo) sponsors HF3269, which would restore some of the Medical Assistance dental benefits eliminated by the Legislature last year. The bill would expand coverage to include certain procedures like root canals and denture repairs; it would also reduce the time patients must wait between full-mouth x-rays.

“The entire (dental) community is very concerned about the cuts from last year being too deep,” Michael Scandrett, staff director of the Minnesota Safety Net Coalition, told the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee. “… Some of those cuts probably went further than they should have and we’ve had a lot of problems since then.”

Bunn’s bill would also have implications for the state’s critical access dental program, which provides payments to practices serving a high volume of low-income patients. As part of his supplemental budget, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes to reduce the number of dental practices that qualify for state payments. Bunn amended her bill to ensure that practices where at least 40 percent of patients are uninsured or on public assistance programs continue to receive funding. Under the amendment, dental programs associated with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would also receive continued payments.

Patrick Lloyd, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, said about 32 percent of the 105,000 patients served at the Twin Cities campus last year were on a public health program.

Bunn’s bill was approved as amended and is scheduled to be heard by the House Health Care and Human Services Finance Division March 18. It does not have a Senate companion.

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