U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) recently introduced the Oral Health for Moms Act (S.560).
The legislation seeks to expand dental coverage and improve oral health care for women during pregnancy and after delivery by requiring Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to cover eligible individuals’ dental health care.
Pregnancy-related dental coverage is optional in state Medicaid programs, which means dental care may be unaffordable for expectant families. Oral health is essential for a healthy pregnancy, as mothers who have problems with their teeth or gums are at a greater risk for health complications such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, low birth weight, and depression.
The sponsors of the legislation have said the bill would:
- Require coverage of oral health care for pregnant and postpartum women enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including diagnostic and preventative care, basic dental services, major dental services, and emergency dental care, among other services.
- Establish quality measures for maternal oral health, focusing on utilization, availability, and screening.
- Include oral health services for pregnant and postpartum women as an essential health benefit in the health insurance marketplaces and the individual and small group markets nationwide.
- Provide grants to Federally Qualified Health Centers to provide dental services.
- Direct the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission to develop a report on issues related to maternal oral health care access.
- Create an oral health initiative through the Indian Health Service to improve oral health and address barriers to care for American Indian and Alaskan Native populations.
- Require a perinatal oral health outreach and education program to provide interactive oral health education, information on oral health coverage, and refer pregnant individuals to oral health services.
- Provide training grants to improve availability of care and its outcomes and to integrate dental care into maternal health settings.
Impact on General Dentistry: AGD is reviewing the legislation and appreciates the Senators’ efforts to address the critical issue of improving expectant mothers’ oral health, especially for vulnerable populations. This issue highlights the importance of addressing the link between good oral health and overall health, especially related to mothers and their children. Children are three times more likely to develop dental disease if their mother did not receive dental care during pregnancy.