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HPI report: More Medicaid kids seeing dentists

July 25, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

More publicly insured kids are seeing the dentist.

In 2016, 50.4 percent of children on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, had a dental visit in the past year, according to an ADA Health Policy Institute infographic released in July. The percentage of publicly insured children with a dental visit in the past year has grown each year since 2006, when 35.3 percent of children saw a dentist.

In 2016, 67.1 percent of privately insured children saw a dentist in the last year, while in 2006, 57.9 percent of privately insured kids saw a dentist.

The data reveal a narrowing gap in dental care use between publicly and privately insured kids in the past decade, said Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., ADA's chief economist and HPI's vice president.

For the report, HPI researchers analyzed Medicaid- and CHIP-enrolled children and children with private dental benefits in all available states.

Numbers varied “tremendously” by state, said Dr. Vujicic.

Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Texas and Washington had the highest rates of overall dental care use and the highest rates of preventive dental care use, according to the report. Texas in 2016 reported the highest percentage of publicly insured kids with a dental visit: 69.2 percent.  Meanwhile, Wisconsin had the lowest percentage, with 32.1 percent of publicly insured kids reporting a dental visit in the past year.

Between 2011 and 2016, Florida Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan and Montana made the greatest gains in overall dental care use.

To see the full report, click here.

Dr. Vujicic said the report demonstrates steady progress among Medicaid kids in one indicator of oral health. This is due in part, Dr. Vujicic opined, to “getting policy right,” such as Medicaid expansions and the CHIP mandate for comprehensive dental coverage. This progress could be reduced in coming years though, as some states are weighing cutting back on existing benefits.

Additional research is needed to understand the ease with which Medicaid enrollees are able to navigate the health care system to find dental care, Dr. Vujicic said.

For more information, visit ADA.org/HPI or contact the Health Policy Institute at hpi@ada.org