Keriana Carll cries in pain almost every day. Her mouth hurts. She doesn’t eat much. The Bradenton 4-year-old who loves to blow bubbles has such severe dental disease that she had to get her front tooth pulled.
No dentist in Sarasota or Manatee County was willing to treat her. The only dentist her publicly funded Medicaid insurance company found who was willing to help the child is 50 miles north, in Tampa.
Because she lives in Florida, Keriana is less likely to get access to preventive dental care and treatment than if she’d been born in any other U.S. state but Wisconsin. On any given day in Florida, two out of three Medicaid-enrolled kids who need dental care do not receive it. In 2015, 1.5 million kids, or one-third of the state’s population 19 and under, did not see a dentist that year.
Those aren’t the only numbers that paint a disturbing picture of a key component of health care for children under the joint federal and state Medicaid program for low-income Americans:
‒ Florida ranked 50 out of 51 states and the District of Columbia in the percentage of Medicaid-enrolled kids getting preventive dental care; just 27 percent of kids got preventive dental care in 2014. Only one in 10 children — again, the state ranked 50 of 51 — received any dental treatment that year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
‒ Florida Medicaid reimbursed dentists just 37 percent of the standard rate for private insurance for services in 2013, the eighth-lowest rate in the nation, according to a report from the American Dental Association. Among dentists, low reimbursement rates were the top reason cited for refusing to see Medicaid patients, according to a dental workforce survey conducted by the Florida Department of Health.
‒ Since 2000, the percentage of Florida children receiving any dental services has remained well below the national average, federal and state data show. Just 25.5 percent of children received any dental services in 2000. By 2015, the number had increased to 36.4 percent, despite the fact that the state has undergone a significant transition to a managed care system touted as a way to improve care and cut costs. Nationally, the percentage of children receiving dental services was 49 percent in 2015.
‒ Florida’s spending on emergency room care for dental problems increased almost five-fold between 2005 to 2014, according to a recent study from the University of Florida. Almost 40 percent of the $234 million in hospital charges in 2014 was billed to the Medicaid program.
‒ Efforts to encourage dentists to practice in underserved Florida communities have been routinely killed in the state Legislature or vetoed by the governor, including an effort this year.
Low-income children are at especially high risk for dental cavities. Bacteria that cause cavities can spread through contact with saliva, often from parents to baby. A mother with poor oral health can transmit the bacteria to the fetus in the womb. The disease is exacerbated in young children by prolonged exposure to sugar, such as sleeping with a bottle or regularly drinking high-sugar fruit juices.
Dental Insurance: https://www.advocareassoc.com