Reaching Policymakers and Neighbors During “Hill Day”

October 2019

As part of a Hill Day event, Network members met with, and educated, policy makers about the importance of oral health to overall health. They asked for specific policy changes so that everyone has an equitable chance to thrive, Including:

  • Adding oral health coverage under Medicare Part B covered services.
  • Making oral health care a mandatory component of pregnancy-related benefits in Medicaid.
  • Appropriating an additional $15.5 million to the CDC Division of Oral Health to support an oral health program in every state.

Simultaneously, a group of 35 visited a Baltimore neighborhood for a face-to-face and heart-to-heart experience. They spent the morning learning about the public health approach used by Safe Streets to reduce shootings and homicides followed by an afternoon working alongside Safe Streets staff to serve a meal to hundreds of community residents, share information about access to dental care and healthy eating, and listen to people’s personal stories about oral health.

During the one-day event, 260 OPEN advocates were on the hill to visit 180 legislative offices representing 42 states. While in Baltimore, several dozen OPEN members distributed 300 oral hygiene kits and bottles of water, and shared 600 oral health education flyers. They also dished up 20 gallons of spaghetti to community residents.

During a midday luncheon at the capitol, Senator Bob Casey spoke to OPEN members about the importance of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Casey also described the Medicare and Medicaid Dental, Hearing, and Vision Benefit Act (S.1423) that he introduced this year to improve access to dental care for seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income populations.

Our work and asks were well-timed. There was interest and attention for adding oral health coverage under Medicare Part B, making oral health coverage for pregnant women a mandatory service in Medicaid, and expanding funding for an oral health program in every state.

We must continue this important work across the network in our states and communities—equity can’t wait and lives hang in the balance. Please continue to connect with your OPEN colleagues, key stakeholders, and legislators to keep these messages front and center. For more information please contact