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Children on Medicaid Denied Dental Care

Children on Medicaid Denied Dental Care

Many of the children in a number of states are going without proper dental care mainly because of the low rates being doled out to the dentists under Medicaid. Medicaid is the government funded health care program for poor people who cannot afford insurance. Thousands of patients across different states are going without dental care because dentists are just not willing to take up more Medicaid patients. Florida is one of the states with the lowest of rates for dentists who attend to patients under Medicaid.

There has been increasing pressure by children’s health groups on the legislature to increase the rates being provided to the dentists under Medicaid. There have been encouraging developments on the front. The budget proposals by Gov. Charlie Crist’s program plans to increase the rates being provided to the dentists by 20%.

The rates may not be enough for most dentists in the state. However, even a slight improvement is good news for some. Moreover, the current economic downturn has caused more and more dentists to look for work. This may encourage the dentists to take up more patients.

Most dentists believe that the aim is not only to have sparkling teeth for everybody. Most experts realize that having clean teeth is the essence of having a healthy body. Cavities which are not attended to may cause abscesses that may reach the brain also. In fact, there was a recent case of a 12 year old boy in Maryland who passed away after a dental infection caused by cavities affected his brain. He could not get attention at the right time because no dentist would take him on. It made the state authorities declare a threefold hike in the rates being provided to dentists for Medicaid. But, do we need another case in all other states for the authorities to wake up?

The rates offered for Medicaid doctors in Florida is the lowest in the country, except for one other state. Florida Medicaid pays only $44 to fill up a cavity, whereas a dentist may get a rate of $182 for the same case from a private insurer. It is therefore not surprising that the dentists refuse Medicaid patients if they can. This results in kids going around with severe infections in their mouth, acute distress and pain. Most of these cases go undetected for days, mainly because of parental ignorance. Add to this the prevalence of sugared juices and Sippy cups and you have a potential health hazard at hand. Another practice that increases risks is that of putting the baby to sleep with a milk bottle in the mouth. The residue that the milk leaves behind causes infections in these kids.

The problem is compounded in case they are of poor parents. The parents do not take children to the doctor until it is probably too late.

There have also been federal lawsuits filed against state health officials. This has only resulted in the defendants replying that these lawsuits are without merit. The government can withdraw funds if the programs are not implemented, not file a suit. In fact, they argue, these firms cannot file suits on behalf of a class. The case is still continuing and more than 500documents have been filed till date.

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