Dental organizations urge HHS, CMS to release CARES Act relief funds

Washington — The ADA, Organized Dentistry Coalition and many state dental associations are asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to release funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Provider Relief Fund to assist dental Medicaid providers.

In an April 17 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the dental organizations thanked the agencies for supporting dentists nationwide during the COVID-19 pandemic but requested “immediate financial assistance for dentists who are only providing care for patients with urgent needs” as they are “taking on significant financial risk” in postponing non-urgent procedures and visits.

“Dentists were some of the first to recommend a postponement of all elective procedures at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic,” the organizations wrote. “As a result, dentists are only seeing patients for emergencies in order to slow community spread, preserve medical supplies, and alleviate emergency departments as much as possible from the burden of caring for dental emergencies, rather than patients with COVID-19.”

The organizations noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has classified dental health care personnel in the “very high exposure risk category” and said that the ability to fully reopen dental practices is “contingent on the ability to completely control the coronavirus pandemic in a relatively short period of time.”

“Dentists across the country continue to navigate the unique challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic while growing more alarmed that their practices are risking solvency issues as they try to remain open for emergencies but have less and less access to capital. Even with Small Business Administration loans coming online, the delays in processing are requiring dentists to make long-term business decisions about keeping employees on payroll and whether they will ever be able to open again,” they wrote.

“We strongly recommend that HHS provide immediate access to capital by releasing funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Provider Relief Fund to dentists that are Medicaid providers. After releasing $30 billion in Medicare payments to health care providers last week, dentists who are Medicaid providers should also be made eligible for payments in the next round of payments. These payments would help dentists who provide a critical access point for oral health care to many lower income Americans. To remain sustainable in the long-term, these dentists need funding immediately,” the letter concluded.

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