Federal Report Finds That Many Children with Medicaid are Not Receiving Proper Dental Care

President Obama’s health care overhaul was supposed to benefit low-income families, but a recent federal investigation has revealed that it may actually be preventing some children from visiting the dentist.

According to the Connecticut News Times, a recent federal report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has revealed that approximately three out of four children with Medicaid did not receive “all required dental care” over a recent two-year period.

Furthermore, the report also claims that one in four kids with Medicaid didn’t visit a dentist at all during this period of time. In response to these findings, the HHS has recommended a widespread governmental push to improve access to care for these children and their families.

As part of their research, investigators focused on dental claims made through Medicaid for 2011 and 2012 from four states: California, Indiana, Louisiana, and Maryland. These four states represent about one-fifth of all U.S. children with Medicaid.

The Affordable Care Act’s insurance expansion, which was approved by President Obama in 2014, was intended to improve health care for families that cannot afford private insurance. Instead, some believe it is now more difficult than ever for low-income families to obtain dental care.

Since there are a limited number of dental offices that participate in Medicaid, many families end up competing with each other for the services of a particular dentist.

“We found a significant number of children, 28%, who didn’t receive any dental services over a two-year period” despite being continuously enrolled in Medicaid, said Meridith Seife, one of the HHS report’s authors. “We found that to be a huge, huge problem.”

An estimated 50% of adults say they visit the dentist every six months, but regular dental care is even more important for low-income children because of their daily exposure to sugary drinks and snacks.

This issue was brought into the national spotlight in 2007 when 12-year-old Deamonte Driver of Maryland died from an infection that started in an abscessed tooth. Many people blamed the government for Driver’s death, claiming that his family did not have access to basic dental care that could have treated his infection.

While the four states mentioned in the HHS report seem to have dropped the ball on Medicaid, there are some states that have noticed positive results since Obama made changes to the program.

According to Syracuse.com, the percentage of New York State children on Medicaid who had at least one dentist visit per year actually increased from 32% in 2005 to 43% in 2013.

During this same eight-year period, the percentage of privately-insured children in New York who visited the dentist at least once per year declined from 65% to 62%.

While New York’s Medicaid program seems to be benefiting children, the fact remains that the states mentioned in the HHS report are not providing proper dental care to low-income families.

The report recommended that each state create an individual action plan to identify their faults and improve dental care for these families.

Aaron Albright, spokesman for The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, added that the agency is “working with states to decrease barriers and seek ways to increase the number of providers.”

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