Idaho House approves restoring Medicaid dental benefits

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) The Idaho House has narrowly approved restoring non-emergency dental benefits for Medicaid recipients.

The legislation to restore coverage to more than 30,000 Idaho Medicaid recipients passed Monday 36-32, The Spokesman-Review reported . The bill still needs Senate approval before being sent to the governor.

The benefits were reduced in 2011 to cover only emergency extractions. Lawmakers had promised to restore the benefits when the economy improved, and restored them for children and people with major disabilities two years later.

Poor dental hygiene can lead to significant health consequences, which became apparent during the two-year period without any coverage, said Republican Rep. Fred Wood, a physician who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee.

"I do think that the savings will be real here, and I do think that the health of this population will be significantly improved by restoring these benefits," Wood said.

Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel told legislators that by cutting the benefits, "it was understood that this was likely to lead to serious downstream medical conditions."

Restoring benefits is expected to cost $1.24 million, although some lawmakers have projected other health savings would add up to $2.5 million.

Others reject that notion because Medicaid costs have continued to increase.

"We continue to spend money without seeing any savings anywhere," Republican Rep. John Vander Woude said.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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