This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Since the Great Recession hit five years ago, the Legislature has had to do dumb things with money – short-term spending cuts that, long term, were bound to cost more money than they saved.
One of these forced errors was the elimination of Medicaid dental coverage for more than 400,000 poor adults in recent years. For every dollar saved, the state forfeited another dollar in federal matching funds – and set itself up for higher medical expenses down the road.
It’s now time to reverse that penny-wise decision. With the Affordable Care Act about to supplement state Medicaid spending with federal, the restoration of dental care would leverage far more federal dollars than it would cost.
Dental infections are like other infections: Let them fester, and the problems only get bigger and more expensive.
After the Medicaid cut in 2011, adults who’d lost their coverage either had to seek charity care or go to the emergency room when they got a toothache.
Pain in the jaws and the teeth can be symptoms of nasty conditions, including abscesses turning into massive bacterial infections. Emergency room staffs can provide painkillers and antibiotics, but they can’t treat the underlying dental diseases.
Diabetes is the best illustration of pay-now-or-pay-more-later.
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