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Florida Takes Small Steps in Oral Health During 2020 Legislative Session, More Action Needed

If you are a Floridian struggling with access to dental care you may (or not) be surprised to find out that you are not the only one.

Many Floridians, including millions of children, do not have access to the dental care they need to maintain their oral and overall health. This problem is costly to the state and harmful to the health of Florida’s children and families.

  • In 2016 alone, Florida hospitals billed more than half a billion dollars for treatment of dental conditions that could have been avoided by providing access to preventive and routine dental care.

  • Also, in 2016, 1.4 million children on Medicaid did not see a dentist all year.

  • Nearly 5.5 million Floridians live in areas without enough dentists to meet community need.

There are policy options lawmakers can support right now to increase access to dental care, improve the health of Floridians, and use public dollars efficiently.

Click here to learn more about solutions for oral health in Florida.

On February 11, 2020 OPEN Florida (Oral Health Progress and Equity Network) launched a campaign calling on state lawmakers to address this costly issue. Joined by Senator Jason Pizzo, health advocates, and medical professionals, the coalition hosted a press conference in Tallahassee highlighting the need for better access to oral health. Our partners then traversed the capital building to meet with legislators including Senator Montford (Tallahassee), Rep. Eskamani (Orlando), and Representative Torres (Orlando).

The coalition asked lawmakers to consider a slate of policy options that have been successfully tested around the country, including:

  • Creating a comprehensive adult dental benefit in Medicaid,

  • Leveraging Medicaid to reimburse health care services provided in schools (SB 190/HB 81),

  • Authorizing dental therapists (SB 152/HB 979); and

  • Funding Florida’s dental school loan repayment programs for dentists who work in underserved areas.

In the last weeks of legislative session, Medicaid School-Based Services (SB 190/HB 81) has passed the House and the Senate. That’s exciting news but we still have so far to go. All other legislation has failed or hasn’t been introduced.

This won’t change without your help and the active participation of Floridians.

To learn more about these policy solutions, join the coalition, and sign-on to a letter supporting oral health, visit www.healthyfla.org/oralhealth.

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