Hawaii health insurers offer dental for Medicaid members

HONOLULU — Two health insurers in Hawaii will cover dental care for adults on Medicaid after the state program excluded oral health benefits a decade ago.

AlohaCare and Ohana Health Plan are investing nearly $1 million to provide basic adult dental care for Medicaid members, which number about Hawaii 364,000 residents.

The basic care covers an annual exam and cleaning every six months at no extra cost, as well as simple tooth extraction, filling and topical fluoride.

“It’s been 10 years since about 219,000 adult Medicaid members in Hawaii have been able to get basic dental care without having to pay for it,” said Scott Sivik, state president of Ohana Health Plan. “A routine health benefit is something many of us take for granted.”

Current members and those who sign up for either health plan this month can get dental care starting in January.

“Dental care is an important part of overall health. It’s important to continue to advocate for access to dental care,” AlohaCare CEO Laura Esslinger said.

The state Medicaid program had cut dental benefits over budget restrictions, but some have pushed to restore coverage in recent years.

“Oral health is critical to good health and overall well-being,” Sivik said. “The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body and provides clues about overall health and larger health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

The program will operate at least through January 2020 when health insurance contracts for the state’s Medicaid program go up for bid.

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