Dental Health Advocates Urge Increase in Medicaid, CHIP Reimbursements for Dentists
Dental care does not receive the "same priority" as other health care, which forces millions of children to "suffer unnecessarily" from tooth decay, dental health advocates told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee at a hearing Tuesday, the Mobile Register reports. They urged lawmakers to pass a bill (S 1626), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), that would increase Medicaid and CHIP reimbursements for dentists. The legislation would provide $50 million in incentives and grants to encourage states to increase Medicaid and CHIP reimbursements for dental care. According to dental health advocates, increased reimbursements would prompt more dentists to provide care for Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries. In Alabama, for example, a revision in the state's Medicaid formula that increased reimbursements for dentists resulted in "almost immediate benefits" for children and has tripled the number of dentists who serve Medicaid beneficiaries, to more than 500 over the last several years, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the committee and a supporter of the legislation, said. The bill, introduced last November, has stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, Bingaman spokesperson Jude McCartin said. About 108 million U.S. adults and children do not have dental insurance, more than two times the number who do not have health coverage (Reilly, Mobile Register, 6/26).
During the Senate hearing, the American Dental Association announced plans to conduct a one-day campaign, scheduled for Feb. 21, 2003, in which dentists will provide free care to children without access to dental care. The "Give Kids a Smile" campaign will help raise awareness that "thousands of American children have been living needlessly in pain," ADA President Gregory Chadwick said. He added, "Until we as a nation find the political will to make oral health a priority, our children will continue to suffer" (American Dental Association release, 6/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.