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Beautiful asian woman smile with healthy teeth whitening

Dental coverage may soon be offered to everyone eligible under Illinois’ Medicaid program. The Illinois Senate recently voted to expand the state’s Medicaid program to provide dental coverage to not only children and those who are pregnant but everyone eligible for Medicaid.

According to Senator Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, the Medicaid expansion would help to cover more than 600,000 people. “We want to make sure that everyone in our state who is Medicaid eligible gets immediate preventative dental care,” said Aquino.

Preventative dental care is essential for keeping minor dental problems such as plaque buildup and cavities from becoming major issues that could cause chronic health issues and disability. In fact, more than 75% of children’s cases of underbites and overbites benefited from the use of early dental intervention.

Tooth decay that’s left to sit in the mouth can lead eventually reach the bloodstream. Connections have been found between tooth decay and major health issues such as heart disease, dementia, respiratory illnesses, and diabetic complications.

Despite these issues, many American families are unable to pay for dental insurance to take care of their teeth. Additionally, certain Medicaid plans such as the one currently offered in Illinois only cover the dental care of children and pregnant women. In fact, 70% of seniors didn’t have dental coverage in 2016, according to government estimates.

The new expansive program would cost up to $26 million a year, according to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

Illinois Republicans, including Senator Dave Syverson of Rockford, say this is a cost the state doesn’t need to pay. Many of Illinois’ private Medicaid managers, Syverson said, already offer dental care.

“A number of the managed care organizations already do this themselves, and they pay for it. They do it as a marketing tool to try and get more people to get into their MCO,” Syverson said.

The expanded dental care plan isn’t limited in scope or cost concerning the type of dental work needed or how often Medicaid patients need it. The plan passed the Illinois Senate with a 39-14 vote. The proposal will now be passed on to the Illinois House of Representatives.