In Florida, preventable ER visits for dental care cost that state $88 million, a new report said. In the meantime, California lawmakers sent the governor a bill for his approval that would give low-income children a new way to get dental care.
Health News Florida: Lack Of Preventative Dental Coverage Ends Up Costing State: Report
There were 115,000 emergency-room visits for preventable dental conditions in Florida in 2010, at a cost of $88 million, the report by Florida Public Health Institute said. A third of those visits were charged to the state Medicaid program at a cost of almost $30 million, according to the report, raising the question of whether the same amount could have been used to prevent the emergencies from occurring. But only 8 percent of dentists in the state accept Medicaid in their offices, said the report, which the Institute conducted on behalf of Oral Health Florida, a coalition of dentists, hygienists and other public-health advocates (Gentry, 6/25).
CHCF Center For Health Reporting/Sacramento Bee: Bill To Improve Dental Services For Sacramento County's Poor Children On Governor's Desk
Some low-income children in Sacramento County who have tried but failed to get dental care would have an escape route under a bill awaiting action by the governor. … The measure -- by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento -- would allow some children who, despite trying, haven't been able to see a dentist within four weeks for routine appointments and 24 hours for emergencies to switch to a "fee-for-service" program that offers more flexibility. It also creates new accountability and reporting requirements for dental plans participating in Medi-Cal managed care programs in both Sacramento and Los Angeles counties (Bazar, 6/26).
In other news related to difficulties faced by low-income people seeking dental care -
iWatch News: How Low-Income Adults Get Locked Into Debt For Dental Treatment
Aspen Dental is a chain of nearly 350 offices in 22 states managed by a company owned by a private-equity firm. It is part of a fast-growing industry of corporate dental practices, many of which specialize in serving people who cannot afford to go to the dentist, a group many dentists ignore. By marketing to people who haven't seen a dentist in years, Aspen Dental often gives new patients treatment plans costing thousands of dollars. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and PBS Frontline spent months examining Aspen Dental and found that the same business model that makes Aspen Dental accessible to people short on cash can also lock people into debt and has led to complaints of patients being overcharged or given unnecessary treatments (Heath/Rosenbaum, 6/26).
Bloomberg: Dental Abuse Of U.S. Poor Dodges Ejection From Medicaid
The company behind a chain of dental clinics that mistreated pediatric patients was caught breaking health-care rules so often that U.S. regulators threatened to expel it from Medicaid in March, according to newly released documents and interviews with federal officials. Now the troubled, closely held firm has emerged with a new name and new owners from a bankruptcy reorganization prompted by disputes with regulators. It still has to resolve an audit report from April that found children who visited a Maryland Small Smiles clinic allegedly were restrained improperly during dental treatments and subjected to medically unnecessary root canals on baby teeth, according to government officials familiar with the confidential review (Freedberg, 6/26).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.