Federal Lawmaker Pushes for Expanded Kids’ Dental Coverage
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) speaking on Monday at a Baltimore community health clinic accused the Bush administration of not providing adequate dental care for low-income children, the Baltimore Sun reports.
Cummings also spoke about legislation (HR 2371) he introduced in May that is intended to increase access to dental care for low-income children and train more pediatric dentists (Anderson, Baltimore Sun, 5/19).
The bill was drafted in response to a May 2 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that "identified major failures in access to dental services for children on Medicaid," Cummings said.
The bill, called Deamonte's Law, is named after Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died after a tooth infection spread to his brain because he lacked access to dental care (California Healthline, 5/21).
Cummings on May 17 wrote a letter to Dennis Smith, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations at CMS, seeking answers to the problem of access to dental care for Medicaid beneficiaries. The letter was signed by other members of the committee, who asked Smith to provide them with assurances that he will enforce federal law requiring that all children who are Medicaid beneficiaries receive dental care.
The committee set a June 1 deadline for Smith's response. However, Smith has not responded despite several deadline extensions, according to the Sun. The latest extension requires Smith to respond by Friday.
Smith has said he does not want to punish states that provide low reimbursements to dentists treating Medicaid beneficiaries.
Dentists in many states do not participate in the Medicaid program because they are not reimbursed for the full cost of treatment.
A Dental Action Committee formed by health officials met for the first time last week to discuss recommendations for Medicaid reimbursement rates and other issues (Baltimore Sun, 6/19).