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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Expands Dental Benefits for Those with Mental Health Conditions

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Article

This expansion follows in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on rising mental health conditions in Massachusetts alone.

Folks of all ages with mental health conditions will now have access to enhanced dental services through a recent expansion of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ Dental Blue benefits.

© My Ocean studio - stock.adobe.com

© My Ocean studio - stock.adobe.com

Blue Cross of Massachusetts recently announced this expansion for benefit members with conditions such as depression and anxiety, and intellectual or developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism.

Plan members with these conditions can enroll in the program with help from their doctor to receive additional preventive services, such as more frequent dental cleanings and fluoride treatments at no charge.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, those with mental health conditions may have difficulty maintaining daily dental care and accessing treatment, and those taking medications for mental health conditions may experience dry mouth, which can increase the risk of tooth decay and cavities.

Bob Lewando, Blue Cross' executive director of Professional Services, and a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease, said in the announcement by Blue Cross of Mass., the expansion of dental benefits is being offered because studies have shown that patients with mental health conditions and intellectual and/or developmental disabilities are at a higher risk for oral health conditions.

"Routine services are critical as we seek to support better health outcomes for all our members," Lewando said.

Blue Cross currently offers expanded dental benefits to members with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, oral cancer, Sjogren's Syndrome and women who are pregnant.

These conditions can put patients at higher risk for developing oral health conditions, and these benefits can help members manage oral health complications related to their medical condition.

This expansion also follows in response of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on rising mental health conditions in Massachusetts alone.

In a KFF analysis, many adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression, with approximately four in ten adults reporting these symptoms in early 2021, before declining to approximately three in ten adults as the pandemic continued.

The analysis revealed that from February 1 to 13, 2023, 30.8% of adults in Massachusetts reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder, compared to 32.3% of adults in the U.S.

Outside of dental needs among this significant group, it was also found that in May 2022, adults in Massachusetts who reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder, 33.0% reported needing counseling or therapy but did not receive it in the past four weeks, compared to the U.S. average of 28.2%.

While addressing the ongoing challenge of limited access to mental health services, prioritizing dental health for individuals with mental health conditions in Massachusetts marks the beginning of efforts to improve healthcare statewide and paves the way for a positive national impact on overall well-being.

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