State mistake on Medicaid dental benefits may force temporary continuation of program

It appears that the Dunleavy administration, in its haste to get rid of adult dental services for people on Medicaid, did not follow regulations that require a 10-day advance notice of termination to beneficiaries, according to some Alaska health care experts.

That may explain why the dental program, which was to end on July 1, will continue until Oct. 1, according to a document posted by the Office of Management and Budget on its website.

How it will be paid for is anyone’s guess, since Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed all of the money for dental services for the fiscal year, $27 million, about two-thirds of which is federal money that will not be spent in Alaska helping poor people keep their teeth.

This error follows the action by the governor of vetoing the wrong Medicaid line in the budget with his first round of vetoes, a move that has become part of the recall campaign and the basis of a claim of incompetence.

The news coverage about the dental program and state websites and other documents say the program ended July 1.

The Alaska Medicaid handbook states, that “Adult enhanced (preventive) dental services are unfunded effective July 1, 2019.”

The state Medicaid website says the same thing, warning that all dental services claims after that date will be denied.

“The department will pay for authorized adult enhanced dental services completed prior to July 1, 2019, and for seatment or completion of authorized services that commenced prior to July 1, 2019,” the state says.

But the veto message last week on the Office of Management and Budget website says the program will be funded until Oct. 1. This appears to be the result of a belated recognition of the 10-day notice requirement.

This information about continuing the program was not communicated in a clear fashion by OMB, however, as it merely consisted of a statement saying that coverage will be limited to emergency services as of Oct. 1.

“Beginning October 1, adult Medicaid recipients will be eligible for limited dental benefits covering emergency dental services,” OMB said.

Perhaps the state did not want to publicize the continued existence of the program or the error.

It would behoove the Dunleavy communications experts to let Alaskans know that the program has been extended and explain how it will be paid for and why this well-known regulation about advance notice was ignored or missed.

Dermot Cole4 Comments