Dental Health: Nurturing the Health Care System’s Neglected Stepchild

The recent deaths of two children due to preventable dental conditions focused attention on the importance of improving access to dental coverage for low-income Americans. With SCHIP reauthorization on the horizon and the chance that elements of last year’s vetoed SCHIP proposal—which included provisions for dental care—may be revived, oral health issues are front and center.

The tragic deaths remind us that dental health is a vital part of maintaining overall health. Yet many low-income children and adults do not receive adequate dental treatment. While Medicaid and SCHIP provide coverage for low-income individuals who are eligible, reimbursement levels are often so low that many dentists will not participate in these programs. More than 100 million Americans have no insurance to help cover dental needs.

What is the best way to include dental health in the larger health reform debate? How should payment to dental health providers be improved? How can dental workforce shortage issues be addressed?

To address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured sponsored a July 25 briefing. Panelists were: Jack Bresch, American Dental Education Association; Harry Goodman, Director of Oral Health, State of Maryland; Dr. Burton Edelstein, Children’s Dental Health Project; and William Prentice, American Dental Association.

At this briefing, The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured released a report written with the National Academy for State Health Policy titled “Filling an Urgent Need: Improving Children’s Access to Dental Care in Medicaid and SCHIP.” The report recommends effective actions states can take to improve oral health care in Medicaid and SCHIP.

Transcript

Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Speaker Presentations

Diane Rowland Presentation (PowerPoint)
Harry Goodman Presentation (PowerPoint)