Rep. Cedric Hayden (R-Fall Creek) recently passed one of his priority bills by unanimous vote in the Oregon House of Representatives.
House Bill 4095 directs the Oregon Health Authority to establish an insurance premium payment program that will cover low-income, at-risk veterans with much-needed dental insurance coverage through the ‘Oregon’s Health Insurance Exchange. Currently, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs provides limited dental coverage to veterans, much of which must be associated with a service-related dental injury. Military retirees who are eligible for Tricare for Life health coverage must pay dental coverage separately if they are eligible retirees. Rep. Hayden, a dentist by profession, fears thousands of veterans may be covered.
“Today, the Chamber took a real step forward both in providing expanded access to health care for Oregonians, and also in how Oregon cares for its veterans,” Hayden said. “Passing House Bill 4095 today solves a real need to link physical and mental health to oral health needs. When a person has a dental emergency, it is not just localized in the mouth; the infection can spread quickly and dangerously throughout the body. Hayden noted that veterans with a dental emergency then have access to expensive hospital care where the only relief is usually receiving antibiotics and painkillers, without treating the underlying oral health emergency.
“This measure is not only intended to solve a problem of access to care. In the long term, this will reduce health care costs that taxpayers sometimes fall on,” Hayden said. “This type of program combines smart medicine with a commitment to caring for the veteran in a way that the federal government has neglected to do.” Hayden said he is not aware of any state in the country that has chosen to cover dental care for all veterans under a state-run public health policy. He credits the ability to start a veterans dental program to Oregon voters who passed Ballot Measure 96 in 2016. Oregon’s Veterans Lottery bill reserved 1.5% from Oregon Lottery proceeds to veterans programs and services.
“Oregon voters have shown strong support for addressing veterans’ health issues, so much so that they enshrined this duty in our state constitution. I am grateful that we have these funds available to meet the needs of veterans,” Hayden said. Hayden believes Oregon is the only state in the nation with a constitutional mandate to direct public funds to veterans. “Our constitutional amendment is truly unique in that it allows us to be innovative and respond immediately to what veterans need to then help exceed their service, and with our gratitude.”
Hayden specifically thanked Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Kelly Fitzpatrick and county Veterans Service officers for engaging in the process to get House Bill 4095 passed. , he called on bipartisan support from Reps. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth) and Marty Wilde (D-Eugene), both of whom served as members of the military.
“Veterans issues should never be partisan. I am fortunate to serve with legislative colleagues who have served our country and understand how to help serve our veterans.
House Bill 4095 will receive $1 million in Measure 96 funds to start the program in the current biennium with further consideration of funding in 2023.
The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote before Governor Brown signs House Bill 4095.