We are excited to announce that on June 2 and 3, respectively, the Maine House and Senate both passed LD 996, “An Act To Improve Dental Health Access for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes,” unanimously and with support across party lines. The provisions of this bill mean that MaineCare will expand dental coverage to include preventive and more restorative care for individuals aged 21 and older, and approximately 217,000 Maine adults will have access to the care they need. The next step is funding by the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) Committee. A similar proposal is also under consideration by that committee as part of Governor Mills’ budget change package, introduced in May. If the final package includes the proposal, the LD 996 won’t be needed. The change package also includes long-needed increases in all MaineCare reimbursement rates, including dental.
Passage of LD 996 in the Legislature caps a consistent three-year campaign to expand Maine’s emergency-only dental benefit to one that covers prevention and treatment, following similar attempts off and on during the past two decades. This last effort was organized and led by Maine Equal Justice (MEJ), a nonprofit civil legal aid and economic justice organization working to increase economic security, opportunity, and equity for people in Maine.
Quoted in the Portland Press Herald, MEJ director of health care campaigns and advocacy Kathy Kilrain del Rio said, “I think there are people across our state who may cry tears of relief when they hear this news.” She added “Today, Maine has gotten one step closer to finally joining the great majority of states in recognizing that our mouths are a part of our bodies, and that dental care is health care. We are overjoyed that so many Mainers will be able to afford the care they have needed for so long.”
Other organization that supported the campaign included the Maine Dental Association, Maine Oral Health Coalition, Partnership for Children’s Oral Health, Maine Primary Care Association, Delta Dental, Southern Maine Workers Center and Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care. At the public hearing for LD 996, legislators heard testimony from these groups and others, along with many individuals who spoke from their own experience.
A 2021 report from the Health Policy Institute found that Maine would save millions in medical care costs and see more than $21 million annually in economic benefits from covering full dental care for adults with low incomes.
We will update this news story when the new state budget is passed into law later in June.