SHEN DENTAL CLINIC

Michelle Pullen, left, dental assistant, and Dr. Patty Arcos-Velastegui, right, work on George Raines, of Linden, inside Shenandoah Dental Clinic in Woodstock on June 29. The clinic can now accept Medicaid patients with expanded comprehensive benefits.

As of Thursday, Virginia residents with Medicaid became eligible to use their benefits for expanded comprehensive dental care.

At the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic in Woodstock, which provides free and reduced cost medical and dental care for residents in and around Shenandoah County, this is big news for its client base.

“Today started the new coverage for Medicaid for all adults [21 and older,]” Becky Campbell, dental manager at the clinic, said on Thursday.

In addition to regular cleanings with an exam and X-rays, she said the expansion now includes procedures like fillings, extractions and crowns.

“So it’s a lot more coverage for the adults,” she said.

“I think it’s going to be easier for people to get the help that they need.”

Campbell said there is also a Medicaid dental program for people 20 and younger.

Patients with expanded coverage will notice their Medicaid benefits won’t max out on coverage as quickly or easily as before, she said.

The dental plans don’t give them a monetary amount, she said. It’s more that patients will be told whether a procedure will be covered or if there are limitations to their coverage.

Patients might also need approval for certain procedures before scheduling them.

Previously, Campbell said, if a patient maxed out, they would then be expected to pay quite a bit out of pocket to complete a procedure.

Many patients instead chose to put off care they didn't feel they could afford, to the point of risking emergency care later.

Dental care is very expensive, Campbell explained.

“[Virginia] wanted to provide more coverage for adults,” she said. “To have more services covered and get more help.”

Regardless of their plan, this is an improvement for all Medicaid patients.

All adult members with full coverage have access to the same dental benefits, whichever plan they select, said Christina Nuckols, director of strategic communications for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services.

"In the past, the dental benefits varied between plans because dental was considered an 'extra' and now it's a regular part of Medicaid coverage," she said.

“This is going to help ... for really 100% of adults,” Campbell said. “Now everyone has some type of coverage.”

She said this is especially important now that more patients are coming to the clinic following many months quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a good benefit,” she said. “They should take advantage of it if they have it.”

The Shenandoah Community Health Clinic is at 124 Valley Vista Drive, Woodstock. For more information, call 540-459-1700 or visit shenclinic.org. For the dental clinic, call 459-9333 or visit shenclinic.org/dentist.

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com