The State Legislature is transitioning to focusing on the State budget. There are a few items we'll need to ask you to press for in the next couple of weeks with the legislators in your district including: 1) preventative and comprehensive oral health services for pregnant Medicaid members; 2) increased investment in funding for the state loan repayment program and health profession residencies (especially for primary care); and 3) for funding Kids Care. This week we'll focus on Oral Health.
Please take a few minutes and send an email (or make a call) to the Senator and Representatives for your Legislative District and to urge them to include funding for preventative oral health coverage for pregnant Medicaid members in the State budget.
To make it easy, we've built a template message for you to send to your Senator and Representatives below.
You'll need three messages in total because each Legislative District has one Senator and two Representatives. To find your Senator and Representative go to: https://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/
Here's a draft message for you to send (it helps if you personalize it a bit):
Dear Senator _______ (or Dear Representative _______),
I'm urging you consider adding a dental benefit for pregnant mothers within Arizona's AHCCCS program as you consider funding priorities for the State budget in the next few weeks.
Adding this important benefit makes both solid public health and economic sense, and there's good evidence.
A new systematic overview of published studies has found a clear relationship between periodontal disease and pre-term birth and low birth weight.
About 7.2% of AZ live births were low birthweight - or about 5,760 of the 80,000 births every year in AZ. The newly published suggests that periodontal disease is contributing to 1,036 low birthweight weight babies each year in AZ including 520 pre-term babies per year in our state's Medicaid program.
Nationally, the average health care cost for a low birth weight baby during the first year of life is $55,393 compared to $5,085 for a non-low birth weight baby... meaning that periodontal disease costs the state in the neighborhood of $29M in the first year from low birth weight births that are attributable to periodontal disease compared with only $2.6M for a similar number of non pre-term births.
The small investment for this new benefit (only $178,000 in State funds and $458,000 from the Federal Medicaid authority) will result in healthier mothers and healthier babies while saving the state money.
Legislation supporting this benefit (SB1088) passed the Senate with a wide margin and both the House Health and the House Appropriations Committees have given SB1088 strong bi-partisan support.
This new benefit is strongly supported by the Arizona Public Health Association, the Oral Health Coalition and a large number of affiliated groups including the March of Dimes, the Arizona Dental and Arizona Dental Hygienists Associations, the Alliance of Community Health Centers, the College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Arizona Health Plans Association.
We urge you to put funding for this new program on your list of priorities for the State budget this coming year.
Thank you for your consideration.
Your name & Legislative District