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ADA, AAPD support dental Medicaid public-private partnerships

Washington—The ADA and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry urged congressional and administration support for public-private partnerships at the state level as dental Medicaid "building blocks" for children's oral health.

"The AAPD and ADA have long advocated for an effective dental Medicaid program," they told a House subcommittee on domestic policy in joint testimony. "Medicaid dental programs that reimburse at market-based rates will succeed in meeting children's oral health needs.

"Both organizations applaud the subcommittee for its continued diligence in highlighting much-needed reforms to dental Medicaid programs and improved federal oversight by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," they said in written testimony offered for the panel's continuing inquiry on "the adequacy of efforts on the state level to ensure access to pediatric dental services under Medicaid."

The testimony cites as "success stories" Alabama Smile!, Michigan's Healthy Kids Dental Program, Tennessee's TennCare dental "carve out," Virginia's Smiles for Children and the Washington state Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program.

"These partnerships are the building blocks for reimbursement and other reforms discussed in this testimony. While there is no magical list of federal remedies that will fix all of the inherently different state dental Medicaid programs, we do believe that promoting public-private partnerships is a key ingredient in any serious effort to improve dental Medicaid programs, and federal grants and CMS guidance and encouragement would greatly assist these efforts."  

The joint testimony urges "the promotion of such partnerships (as) a high priority (and) initiatives to bring many more private sector dentists into the dental Medicaid program."

The ADA and AAPD urged passage of H.R. 2220, the Essential Oral Health Care Act of 2009, "in whatever legislation ultimately emerges from Congress." The bill would offer increased federal matching funds for states wanting to improve their dental Medicaid programs.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who chairs the House subcommittee, said he believes the CMS "has turned a corner in their oversight of pediatric dental services since the (Feb. 25, 2007) death of Deamonte Driver. But the magnitude of the underlying problem is great, and even today, there are millions of children just like Deamonte—entitled to dental care, but not receiving it. The urgent job of everyone here today is to move quickly to prevent another one of them from dying from preventable dental disease."

The subcommittee took oral testimony from the CMS, the U.S. Government  Accountability Office and dental witnesses at an Oct. 7 hearing.