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Dingell Introduced Child Dental Bill

By Michael Teitelbaum, CQ Staff

April 2, 2007 – Legislation designed to help deliver dental services to low-income children under Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was introduced last week by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich.

The bill (HR 1781) would expand dental coverage to additional children, provide access to qualified dentists, and allow for better reporting and tracking of dental disease among children. The bill would require dental coverage for any SCHIP benefit package.

"Dental disease is the most common childhood disease—more prevalent than asthma, diabetes, and hay fever. It is also the easiest to prevent," noted Dingell in a statement.

He cited the recent deaths of two young children, in Maryland and Mississippi, as a reason to focus more attention on early access to dental care. "These tragedies have also made it clear that stronger federal oversight is needed," he said.

It would provide financial incentives and planning grants, by authorizing $50 million in fiscal 2008 and each subsequent year, to states to improve the delivery of dental services through the use of developing programs, analyzing data, and educating providers in Medicaid and SCHIP.

The legislation would authorize $40 million annually in grants from fiscal 2008–12 to improve the hiring and retention of dental providers to expand the availability of these providers in medically underserved areas.

The bill would require Health and Human Services Department to develop an oral health initiative focusing on dental awareness and prevention.

The legislation would establish three chief dental officer positions—one in the Health Resources and Services Administration, another within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the other within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and would authorize $25 million in fiscal 2008 for them.

It also would allow states to use the SCHIP program to provide wraparound coverage for children with private insurance.

It would make changes in the payments for the Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) for dental residency programs by exempting dental residency training from the methodology used to calculate the number of full-time equivalent residents for GME reimbursement.

It would authorize $58 million in fiscal 2008 and such sums as necessary in future years to have the CDC award grants to states and Indian tribes to improve oral health of children and their families.

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