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Action for Dental Health

Attendance Up at Illinois Mission of Mercy Due to Slashed Medicaid Benefits

July 2, 2014

Illinois dentists have noticed an alarming rise in the number of adults attending the state’s Mission of Mercy, a two-day event where dentists provide free care to those who otherwise could not receive it.

That’s largely due to the state cutting adult dental Medicaid benefits other than in emergencies in 2012, said Dionne Haney, the director of professional services for the Illinois State Dental Society (ISDS), which hosts the event.

Ninety-three percent of patients treated at the Illinois Mission of Mercy this year were adults, according to ISDS. That number was up from the 89 percent of adults who sought care during the inaugural Illinois Mission of Mercy in 2010. 

In both years, the clinic treated about 1,950 people. 

However, it remains unclear whether the need will be as great next year, Ms. Haney added. 

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn earlier in June signed into law a Medicaid expansion bill that will restore some dental benefits through $2.4 billion that the state expects to receive from the federal government.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will roll out the reinstated benefits on July 1, according to Dave Marsh, director of government relations for the ISDS. The services provided will essentially be the same as those from the previous program, he added. 

The more than 1,000 volunteers provided more than $1 million in free care during this year’s event, which was held June 20-21 at the Peoria Civic Center, said Ms. Haney. 

“These Mission of Mercy events truly underscore the fact that so many people do not regularly receive dental care,” she said. “Our hope is that these restored dental Medicaid benefits will help get people the care they need on a consistent basis so they don’t have to live with pain and dental disease.”