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ADA, AAPD urge Congress to reauthorize CHIP

September 13, 2017

Washington — The ADA and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry are urging Congress to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program before the Sept. 30 deadline to ensure "continued and seamless access to oral health care for our nation's children."

In a letter to Senate Committee on Finance Chair Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ADA and AAPD applauded the committee's efforts to examine the future of the program. The two associations also said they were encouraged by the results of the Sept. 7 hearing, "CHIP: The Path Forward," when the committee announced a bipartisan effort to craft CHIP reauthorization legislation.

The ADA and AAPD also stressed that tooth decay remains the most chronic condition among children and adolescents and that poor oral health can have "serious long-term effects."

"Because it is a progressive, chronic condition, a child's oral health problems continue on into adulthood impacting employability, military readiness and overall health status," wrote Dr. Kathleen T. O'Loughlin, ADA executive director, and Dr. John Rutkauskas, chief executive officer, AAPD.

Drs. O'Loughlin and Rutkauskas also highlighted the economic impact of untreated dental disease, citing ADA Health Policy Institute research that found in 2014 emergency room visits for a dental condition occurred every 14 seconds in the United States, costing approximately $863 a visit compared with an average dental office visit cost of $240.

They also cited a study from the American Journal of Public Health that found untreated dental disease has a "significant economic impact" on the nation's health care system, noting that between 2008 and 2010, 4 million Americans went to the emergency room for dental-related problems at a cost of $2.7 billion dollars.

The good news is that the percentage of children without dental coverage has been cut in half since 2000, according to HPI, and ER visits for dental-related issues have decreased for the first time in over 10 years.

"These improvements have been driven by recent improvements to public and private oral health plans," Drs. O'Loughlin and Rutkauskas said.

The letter also pointed out that while the ADA and AAPD support state flexibility and innovation, they believe states should follow statutory guidelines when designing their CHIP benefit programs and urged Congress to maintain the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. They noted that prior to 2009, states had the ability to limit or eliminate dental benefits for enrolled children and "programs varied widely, and children suffered as a result."

Drs. O'Loughlin and Rutkauskas concluded by urging legislators to "utilize our organizations as a resource."

"We look forward to working with you to ensure that our nation's children can continue to benefit from measurable improvements in oral health care and access to dental coverage."

Follow all of the ADA's advocacy efforts at ADA.org/Advocacy.