This past April, ASDA members from across the U.S. came together in Washington, D.C. to advocate for improving access to care. ASDA joined with the ADA and a host of other dental organizations to urge our legislators to support The Coordination of Pro Bono Medically Recommended Dental Care Act (S. 466/H.R. 963). These bipartisan bills create a grant program to help meet the medically recommended dental needs of low-income individuals. Specifically, the program would give $2 million to fund health navigators to match patients with needs and dentists willing to perform the treatment at no cost to the patient.
Dentists are known for their generosity and organizations providing donated dental services provide millions of dollars of care each year. In spite of the success, these organizations could meet the needs of many more of our neighbors if the funding was there to help patients find a dentist who will do the work. For the $2 million the bill will cost it has been estimated $13 million in dental treatment can be rendered for 5,000 Medicare/Medicaid patients.
We believe the costs of the bill will be more than made up for by savings to Medicare. For example, when a dialysis patient fails to consume enough protein to stabilize their condition a feeding tube must be inserted. A 2001 study reported the annual cost of feeding a person through a tube is nearly $32,000. A set of dentures that could restore function to this patient would cost significantly less.
In my first year ethics course, Dr. Dunn Cumby, chair of the Department of Community Dentistry at the University of Oklahoma told us we have a responsibility to solve the problems facing the profession. If we don’t solve them, they’ll be “solved” for us. The Pro Bono Care bills can help us to reduce access to care issues for vulnerable populations in our communities. I ask you to consider using ASDA’s Engage system to urge your senators and representatives to join ASDA in support of these bills.
~Matthew Bridges, Oklahoma ’17, Districts 8 & 9 legislative coordinator