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Dental groups support legislation expanding oral health coverage for former foster youth

June 30, 2021

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Organized Dentistry Coalition, including the ADA, is supporting legislation to expand Medicaid oral health coverage by increasing the eligibility age from 21 to 25 for former youth who are eligible for the foster youth Medicaid pathway.

In a June 28 letter to Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., the coalition, led by the Academy of General Dentistry, thanked the lawmaker for introducing HR 1794, the Foster Youth Dental Act.

In addition to increasing the eligibility age, the Foster Youth Dental Act would also help improve access by providing enhanced reimbursement for dentists.

“As dentists, we know oral health is essential to general health and well-being at every stage of life, but all too often, health policies view the mouth separately from the rest of the body,” the coalition wrote.

The dental groups said youth who have aged out of the foster care system face “considerable barriers” in accessing oral health care. They noted that while foster youth may receive dental care while covered under Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit, 39% of those who age out do not have dental insurance and 93.5% are less likely to have their dental needs met than those with insurance, according to a study published in the journal Health & Social Work.

“The Foster Youth Dental Act presents a commonsense multi-faceted approach to solving the access-to and utilization-of dental care issues among eligible former foster youth,” the letter concluded. “If enacted, we believe this proposal’s ultimate success will require active and robust collaboration among professional organizations; local, state and federal governments; community organizations; and other private entities.”

The ADA sent a letter supporting the bill in May.

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