Dental health is a critical component of medical health. That debate is over. Community Health Centers (CHCs) have understood this sooner than others and intentionally offer dental services alongside the traditional medical services.
Our federal Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program’s sole purpose is to ensure our rural communities have access to medical care. [CAHs are reimbursed by Medicare, on a reasonable cost basis, for applicable patients and services.] Why doesn’t the CAH program include dental health? It’s a stroke-of-the-pen solution to our Dental Deserts!
In 2013 the Minnesota Legislature changed their Critical Access Dental Payment Program (CADPP) to include criteria to designate two additional eligible dental practice types. In 2011 the Kansas Legislature passed a law allowing rural hospitals to employ dentists and provide dental services to their population, and launched a financial impact study of serving their Dental Deserts. State-by-state solutions shouldn’t be needed.
One might hope the ACA will fix this since, after all, it’s really only an insurance/reimbursement problem, right? The ACA solution could provide ~8.7 million more children with some dental benefits, but the adult population would need to be on Medicaid to receive any dental benefits.
Even if the ACA won’t mandate dental care, the CAH program could still encourage ($) CAHs to offer dental health services similar to the CHCs. I don’t see an argument against providing dental health services at critical access hospitals. Isn’t preventative medicine fundamental in the Patient Centered Medical Home?