2-20-12: Examining Dental Care for Those on Medicaid

February 20, 2012 at 8:05 am 4 comments

Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Howard County and Baltimore City.

Congressman Elijah Cummings is one of several Maryland officials looking to improve dental health care for those on Medicaid.

Five years ago this month, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver died from a brain infection, stemming from an untreated tooth ache.  We’ve reported on the show about how the event has inspired Maryland officials and dentists to improve the system to make dental check-ups available to kids on Medicaid.  But the statistics cited at a congressional hearing last week show relatively modest progress:  from a third of Medicaid kids getting dental care the year before Deamonte died to less than half now.

Sheilah talks with one of the officials working to affect change:  Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Howard County and Baltimore City.  He’s leading a forum on dental health in Maryland this Wednesday, February 22, at 9:30 at the Law School at the University of Maryland.

If you’re interested in learning more about what Maryland is doing to improve dental health, check out this report issued last year by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Entry filed under: Health, On Air, Policy. Tags: , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Molly  |  February 20, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Why are dental and medical benefits separate? What is the history of that separation?

    • 2. Peter Yocum  |  February 21, 2012 at 10:28 pm

      All I have is speculation, and I’d love to hear an informed answer. I’ve wondered about this before (if I understand correctly–and although this refers to Medicare, not Medicaid–there was an act of Congress in the 80s excluding dental care from Medicare: http://www.mymedicare.com/medicare-dental-coverage/ ).

      My guess at the reasoning was that if everyone was hypothetically covered for unlimited dental benefits, half the population might just let their teeth fall out and request new ones, with insurance covering the tab. (If your peer group is such that this strategy seems unlikely to you, you’re doing well and we probably haven’t met.)

      Dental care is an area where personal neglect leads to problems more quickly–and much more readily treatable–than other zones of health care. There might be more room for abusing such a system through simple laziness, if benefits were not limited.

      However, that does not explain why abscesses, which can quickly become an acute medical emergency, wouldn’t be covered under Medicaid, Medicare, or whatever other form of health insurance.

  • 3. Debby Dental  |  March 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    I remember the story about Deamonte as if it were yesterday. It kills me to even think that such a tragedy could happen in the most powerful country in the world.

  • 4. Sandy  |  March 6, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I really do not understand the ‘modest progress’. The progress should have gone through the roof. Is word not getting out to the public?
    The check-ups are available. I don’t understand.


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