Health, dental benefits for needy restored
Health and dental benefits cut off for needy adults in 1996 because of state budget problems have been restored by the Department of Human Services.
For more information about QUEST-ACE, call Aloha United Way at 211 or 524-3370 on Oahu, or (800) 316-8005 from the neighbor islands. Regarding adult dental benefits, call 211 or the Community Case Management Corp. at 486-8030 on Oahu, or (888) 486-8030 from the neighbor islands.
Adults without children were knocked out of QUEST health coverage by a 1996 enrollment cap to save money, Human Services Director Lillian Koller said. That same year, dental benefits were taken away from adults but retained for children. The state allowed coverage for adults only to extract rotten teeth, Koller said.
The restorations include:
» QUEST-ACE (Adult Coverage Expansion), providing health coverage for up to 20,000 adults ages 19 through 64 without children.
» Prevent Adult Dental Decay, providing dental benefits for about 95,000 men and women in the QUEST and Fee-for-Service Medicaid programs.
Koller started negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to try to get enough federal money to cover 20,000 adults with health benefits, she said.
It took 2 1/2 years to get federal approval, she said. However, more than $100 million in federal funds was provided to cover up to 20,000 adults for six years, she said. After that the state will have to match the federal money for the program.
Single adults whose annual earnings are at or below the federal poverty level of $980 a month or $11,760 a year will be eligible for the health benefits. Income limits for married adults are $1,313 a month or $15,756 a year.
Medicaid recipients under the new dental program can receive $500 in annual benefits for X-rays, fillings, restorative procedures and other dental services.
And for the first time, the Department of Human Services is providing $1,000 in annual benefits for recipients who need full or partial dentures. So many teeth were pulled in recent years, the department felt it was important to replace them to help people get employed, Koller said.
Koller said she knows from personal experience in her family that dental health is tied closely to cardiac and other health problems. "It really impedes quality of life."
Many dentists, especially on the neighbor islands, pulled out of the Medicaid program when benefits were eliminated for adults, Koller said. More dentists are interested in the program now that benefits have been restored, she said.