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Getting Covered Kids To See the Dentist

Dental coverage for children is offered as part of the Healthy Families program, but not all kids who can see the dentist actually go.

Healthy Families, hoping to change that, just received a $100,000 grant to help start a utilization program. The  grant was awarded by the DentaQuest Foundation as part of its Oral Health 2014 Initiative, a nationwide effort to reverse oral health disparities in the U.S.

“Our strategy is to create a multi-stakeholder, dental-medical collaboration designed to transform oral health care delivery to more than half a million low-income children in California — with the potential to reach upwards of 900,000 across the state,” according to Ellen Badley, the new deputy director of benefits, quality and monitoring at Healthy Families.

The program expands the effort of the current Healthy Smiles dental utilization program aimed at educating beneficiaries and making it easier for them to change their dental habits. The program contacts pediatricians to encourage them to include an oral exam in their checkups and reaches out to health plans to track the rate of dental exams by age.

The new planning grant means that the agency can take a more comprehensive approach to getting children into dental exams, Badley said.

“The planning process will include leaders from MRMIB [the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, which administers the Healthy Families program], Medi-Cal, contracted dental and health plans, health and dental care provider communities, community-based and consumer organizations and academia,” she said.

The program targets children in eight counties — Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura. The utilization effort is part of the national Oral Health 2014 Initiative.

Healthy Families is eligible for an implementation grant, as well. The foundation will accept applications next summer and award grants to states in the fall of 2012.

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