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Report Finds Most Kids on Medicaid Don't Get Dental Care

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(MPRN-Lansing) A new report says many kids and seniors in Michigan are going without dental care. 

The report was created by the PEW Charitable Trust at the behest of advocacy groups. It was released by the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health (MCMCH) and the Center for Health Workforce Studies.

The report says many areas of the state face a shortage of dentists. Also, many families aren’t using services that are available. KarleneKatola of the Michigan Oral Health Coalition says many Medicaid-eligible children live too far from a dentist.

“Their families cannot find a dental provider, or they just don’t know the importance of their Medicaid coverage related to dental,” she says. “…“This report shows more than 60 percent of Medicaid-eligible children did not receive any dental services in 2013, and Michigan lags behind the national average.”

The report says kids with dental problems are more likely to miss school and suffer from poor grades. Other findings:

-Three-quarters of new mothers in 2008 did not receive dental care during their most recent pregnancy.

-The number of Detroit third-graders in need of immediate dental care was more than double the rate statewide.

-About 70 percent of third-graders in the Upper Peninsula had a history of dental decay, compared to 56 percent statewide.

-Also, 76 out of Michigan’s 83 counties have at least one area where there’s a shortage of dental services.

Michigan will extend Medicaid dental coverage to 290,000 more kids in the new state budget, says Jennifer Smith of the state Department of Health and Human Services. Children in Kent, Oakland, and Wayne counties up to age 12 will soon qualify for benefits.

Smith says Governor Rick Snyder’s goal is to have coverage for every child up to the age of 18. She says the Healthy Michigan program also seeks to connect low-income families with a primary care physician. Smith says that should also result in more dentist referrals.

The PEW report also says many Michigan seniors are not getting proper dental care. Low-income seniors on Medicaid in Michigan qualify for dental benefits, says Katola,

“but for those that are on Medicare, there is on dental coverage in that program, which really leaves a lot of Michigan seniors on dire need to access dental care.”

The report says that, as of last year, half of seniors in assisted living facilities went without a dental visit for a year or more.

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