Ill. 'SMART' Act to limit Medicaid dental services

Adults receiving Medicaid can expect cuts to their dental services.

A new bill passed by the Senate is limiting adult dental care to emergency services only.

"We're going to do everything that we can to try to provide the care at a reasonable cost and still get the patients the treatment that they need but a lot of these procedures are not going to be covered by Illinois Medicaid," Dr. Brenden Moon said.

Dr. Moon is a dentist at The Hancock County Dental Center which serves Adult Medicaid patients from Hancock, Adams, Schuyler, Brown, McDonough, and Pike counties. He estimates that three thousand of the center's patients, almost fifty percent will be affected by the recently passed Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together (SMART) Act.

"From now on the only thing Medicaid is going to be covering is extractions in the need that there is a particular tooth that needs to be extracted to avoid some type of dental or medical emergency for a patient," Dr. Moon said.

Before the SMART Act was passed, the Illinois Adult Medicaid program covered procedures like x-rays, fillings, wisdom teeth extractions and dentures. But come July first, adult patients will have to pay for those services out of pocket.

"It's going to leave some people in need but it's still very important that those people get that restorative treatment and get the care that they need to avoid becoming a patient that does need an emergency extraction," Dr. Moon said.

And with the bill's effect date quickly approaching, health departments are doing what they can to help their adult patients.

"We have at the Hancock County Dental Center a sliding fee scale based on household size and income to where we try to provide treatment at a point where it covers the cost of the treatment but it makes it accessible for the families that are in need, and the individuals and adults that are in need," Dr. Moon said.

Dr. Moon believes the center's sliding fee scale is going to be the easiest way for Medicaid patients to stay up to date with dental hygiene come July.

The SMART Act only affects adult dental patients starting at age nineteen. The children's Medicaid dental program will not be changed.