Pittsburgh-area public officials cheer passage of dental bills

HARRISBURG, Dec. 12 – Majority House Health Committee Chairman Dan Frankel joined colleagues to celebrate a major step forward Tuesday for legislation that would allow access to dental care for thousands of Pennsylvanians.

“When you are unable to get the dental care you need, all of the outcomes get worse and worse. Lapses in dental care can make it difficult to eat or talk, and they lead to serious health conditions. Pain from lapses in dental care can make it difficult to function at all,” said Frankel, D-Allegheny. “It’s nothing less than immoral to allow this necessary care to remain out of reach.”

House Bill 1585, introduced by Frankel, would establish teledentistry in Pennsylvania and require insurance plans to cover it, and H.B. 1417 would restore dental coverage under the state Medical Assistance program after cuts in 2011 eliminated services like root canals, periodontal disease work and emergency exams. Both bills passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

House Bill 1417 was introduced by then-Rep. Sara Innamorato, who cheered the votes from Pittsburgh, where she is preparing to take office as the Allegheny County Executive.

“Everyone deserves access to quality health care, which includes dental health care. Pennsylvanians who utilize Medical Assistance are suffering because they cannot access the oral care they need,” Innamorato said. “Moving forward, Medical Assistance must provide a dental package that includes these life-saving services because no one should have to choose between their dental health or paying rent.

“Teeth should no longer be considered 'luxury bones' in Pennsylvania. I am thrilled that the House has passed this legislation, and I urge the Senate to do the same.”

State Rep. Emily Kinkead, who helped usher H.B. 1417 through the House, said that she is committed to working with Senate leaders to get the legislation to Governor Shapiro’s desk.

“Medicaid is the only door to health care for millions of Pennsylvanians,” said Kinkead, D-Allegheny. “When something as essential as a root canal isn’t covered by Medicaid, children and adults who rely on this assistance are often left with no choice but to abandon treatments or procedures that are fundamental to their physical and mental wellbeing. Income should never dictate access to dental care, but it does here in Pennsylvania, and that’s what we’re trying to change with these bills.”