Dental Care Shortages, Reimbursements Need To Be Addressed

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Access to dental care must be considered when evaluating health policy, as more than 100 million U.S. residents lack dental insurance -- more than 2.5 times the number of people who do not have medical coverage, according to speakers at a briefing sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform and the Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, CQ HealthBeat reports.

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Jack Bresch of the American Dental Education Association said that in the last 15 years, the number of areas in the U.S. experiencing a shortage of dental health professionals has increased from 792 to more than 3,700. Burt Edelstein of the Children's Dental Health Project said that those figures do not account for shortages of dental specialists, such as pediatric dentists or oral surgeons. Some states are looking to address the shortages by allowing dental hygienists who have a high level of education and certification to perform some dental procedures and provide preventive care without the supervision of a dentist.

Speakers also discussed the disparity between SCHIP and Medicaid reimbursement rates for physicians and dentists and said that while public health plans cover dental care, reimbursements are so low that many dentists do not accept them. Several speakers said that dental care provisions should continue to be included in SCHIP reauthorization legislation (Wyckoff, CQ HealthBeat, 7/28).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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