HCA asks feds for reconsideration on tribal dental therapists

The Washington State Health Care Authority today asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reconsider their denial of a request to use Medicaid funding for dental health aide therapist services in tribal communities.

Senate Bill 5079—which the Legislature passed in 2017 and Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law—for the first time authorized dental health aide therapist services only for tribal members and their families.

Such therapists are widely used in Alaska, and have helped address a shortage of dentists in rural tribal communities throughout that state.

In August 2017, HCA asked CMS to approve use of Medicaid funding for dental health aide therapists for tribal communities. On May 15, 2018, CMS denied the request, stating that HCA’s request did not comply with several provisions of the Social Security Act related to statewide access to Medicaid services.

In a letter submitted to CMS today, HCA State Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad asked them to reconsider this denial, noting that Medicaid clients who are in tribal communities could still access the same dental services from other qualified providers.

“CMS has indicated its strong support for improving dental services for tribes,” Lindeblad said. “I’m confident we can continue working with our federal partners to find a solution that meets Medicaid program requirements and helps improve dental access. Oral health is essential to overall health.”

This press release was provided by the Washington Health Care Authority.