Maryland To Improve Dental Care For Low-Income Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

In the 2009fiscal year state budget, the Maryland General Assembly included millions ofdollars in funding for initiatives that will expand dental care to morechildren enrolled in Medicaid, the WashingtonPostreports. In what is planned to be the first of three annual installments,lawmakers approved $7 million in new funds -- to be matched by $7 million infederal funding -- to increase Medicaid payments to dentists. The increases areintended to ultimately provide as much as $42 million in state and federalfunds to bring the state's Medicaid dental care payment rates up to the regionalmedian.

The budget also includes $1.4 million to increase the ability of local healthclinics to provide dental care, particularly in underserved areas. Another$700,000 is dedicated to school-based dental programs, including a mobiledental services program.

Lawmakers also approved legislation during the last session that will allowdental hygienists working in public health settings to provide preventive careto patients in the facilities where they work, as well as in schools and othersettings. The measure is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 1. The law will allowservices to be provided without the authorization or supervision of a dentist,which state law currently requires. According to Norman Tinanoff, a healthpolicy expert at the University ofMaryland Dental School, the rule "could stop the bottleneck" in getting low-incomepatients into the dental care system (Otto, Washington Post, 4/20).

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