Special needs patients struggle after elimination of preventative Medicaid dental coverage

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Families of special needs patients say that Governor Dunleavy’s cuts to Medicaid leave them without coverage for preventative dental care.

“When they cut it, everything went away,” said Cathy Scott, a mother of a 30-year-old man living with special needs.

Scott’s son, David Scott, is non-verbal and lives in a care facility.

When David Scott needs dental care, he often needs to go to the hospital where he is given anesthesia because of his needs,

“It’s imperative that we get dental care for him,” Cathy Scott said. “He couldn’t have a cleaning, he couldn’t have a regular check-up.”

Dr. Lara Mabry does dental work on David Scott and about 250 other special needs individuals.

Her practice, Mabry and Mabry Dentistry, LLC, has specialized in the care of people that have special needs.

“Everybody has a right to be treated, oral health needs to be treated,” she said.

Patients relying on Medicaid will no longer be covered for preventative care like cleanings, fillings, X-rays, exams, root canal therapy and more, according to Dr. Mabry.

“I personally don’t think this is the governor’s fault,” said Lara Mabry’s office manager, Paula Kersbergen. “He had to cut the budget. I get that. This goes back when they structured Medicaid.”

She says the way Medicaid was structured lumps special needs individuals in the adult category, so when adult preventive was cut, it left people like David Scott and his family without coverage.

“My husband and I are going to start looking for private insurance for (David), but we’re concerned that may not work because of the preexisting seizure disorders,” Cathy Scott said. “So it is a big deal for him to not have this.”

Mabry is concerned that with preventative care cut, in the long run, patients will eventually experience periodontal disease, rapid decay and ultimately extraction.

Mabry said these cuts go into effect Oct. 1.

According to a statement from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the department has extended coverage for adult enhanced dental services through Sept. 30.

"Multi-step procedures that begin prior to October 1, 2019 may be covered if completed on or before October 31, 2019," according to the statement. "Procedures that begin after September 30, 2019 or are not completed by October 31, 2019 will not be covered."

The department said that emergency dental services for adults that provide coverage for the immediate relief of pain or infection will continue to be covered.

"Although there are currently no current exemptions for the provision of adult enhanced dental benefits for individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities, mini grants up to $2500 may be available to Alaska Mental Health Trust beneficiaries," the statement read. "These mini grants, available for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, behavioral health disabilities and/or Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders, can be used to pay for dental services."

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