By Julie Small, KPCC
After listening to comments from interested parties ranging from insurance executives to children’s health advocates, the board of Covered California voted to hold off making changes to the types of children’s dental coverage they will sell starting Oct. 1 in the new marketplace.
The board of California’s new health care exchange meets Thursday in Sacramento. On the agenda is what kind of children’s dental coverage to offer under the Affordable Care Act. Covered California is required to sell pediatric dentistry plans, but the exchange has made those plans an optional extra.
While pediatric dental care is an Essential Health Benefit
under the Affordable Care Act, there’s a big exception.
The law allows state-run health care exchanges to sell medical insurance without pediatric dental care as long as they also sell stand-alone plans. The federal law made that exception because nearly all people who have dental insurance today have stand-alone plans. This way they’ll be able to keep their same dentists, even after federal reforms take effect.
But Covered California went a step further and chose to only offer stand-alone dental plans for children and make the purchase optional. Continue reading
Almost 60 percent of California children on Medi-Cal did not receive any dental care in 2011. (nmoira/flickr)
Young people who don’t get the routine dental care they need find themselves at a disadvantage, studies have shown: not just in overall health but also in school performance.
Now a study from the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that California is among the 10 states where low-income children are least likely to receive dental care.
Almost 60 percent of children with Medi-Cal did not receive any dental care in 2011, said co-author Jane Koppelman.
“What it means is that kids can have insurance, they can have (Medi-Cal), but it’s more like a hunting license than an entitlement,” says Koppelman, research director for the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign. “It’s a license to try to find a dentist who can give you care. And in a lot of areas that is quite a trial.”
Steve Fisher at Oakland Local has an extensive report today about just how hard it is for children in poor families to get good dental care.
California is ranked the third worst state in the country (after Arizona and Texas) for children’s oral health. With numbers like that, it’s not so surprising that it can be virtually impossible for people to find a dentist who accepts Medi-Cal. People with good dental care may not realize how critical healthy teeth are for overall health and success in school.
The lack of adequate dental care for California children is an enormous problem. Although 71 percent of all California children develop tooth decay by the third grade, almost one in four of these children under age 12 have never seen a dentist, according to a June 2011 report by The Children’s Partnership. Recent studies have shown that children in California – especially low-income children – lose millions of hours of school due to dental issues, which can result in poorer academic performance and grades.