Advancing Oral Health Equity This Legislative Session

The 2021 legislative session has come to a close. Arcora Foundation joined with partners to secure several important wins for oral health equity.

Increased Funding for the Apple Health (Medicaid) Adult Dental Program

The final operating budget includes a significant increase in our state’s investment in the Apple Health adult dental program, to be used to increase provider reimbursement rates. Washington’s Medicaid dental rates are currently among the lowest in the country, making it difficult for providers to participate in the program. The result is that Apple Health dental coverage, while essential, does not always equate to access to care.

The funding increase in the biennial budget is an exciting opportunity to increase access to care for the more than one million Washingtonians currently covered by Apple Health.

Building on the Success of the Access to Baby & Child Dentistry (ABCD) Program

The budget recognizes the success and value of ABCD, which has made Washington a leader in connecting young children to dental homes. This collaboration between ABCD providers, local organizations, state agencies and Arcora has more than doubled dental utilization for young children over the last 20 years. There is still more work to do, however, to close gaps and ensure very young children (under age 2) are getting into care.

The budget includes increased funding to boost local ABCD program outreach capacity to reduce racial and ethnic inequities and increase utilization for kids under 2. Additionally, the budget enables the state to implement ABCD expansion for children with disabilities through age 12.

Support for DentistLink and Increased Access to Care

The operating budget also includes funding to support the development of a public/private partnership for DentistLink. DentistLink connects users across the state with dental providers, helping them get the care they need. DentistLink works with all people regardless of their insurance coverage; most have Medicaid or are uninsured.

Currently solely funded by Arcora Foundation, this service is provided at no cost to users, community partners, or providers. With this additional investment from the state, DentistLink can serve more people, helping to connect them to the dental care they need to stay healthy.

Lawmakers passed a number of additional measures to advance health equity, including extending Medicaid coverage for 12 months post-partum, and passing legislation requiring health equity continuing education for health professionals.

These successes would not be possible without a diverse coalition calling attention to the importance of good oral health and advocating for increased access to care, particularly for historically under-resourced communities. Thank you for all you do to champion oral health equity, and thank you to lawmakers for prioritizing oral health and health equity in the final budget.


Message from our President and CEO

“The 2021 legislative session was historic and extraordinary for many reasons. Thank you to Washington legislators and Governor Inslee for your leadership and efforts to address advance health equity. More than 2 million children, working adults and seniors throughout Washington state rely on Apple Health (Medicaid) for their dental care coverage.

“We are grateful that lawmakers passed an operating budget that supports access to dental care for so many in our communities by investing in the Apple Health adult dental program, the Access to Baby Child and Dentistry program and DentistLink. Good oral health and access to oral health care is essential to healthy living, economic opportunity and general wellbeing.

“These significant investments in dental care build on the progress made in our state and are another step toward ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits of good oral health.”

Vanetta Abdellatif
President and CEO, Arcora Foundation