Evaluation shows CHIP's positive impact

By: Colin Reusch

A report recently issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services points to some important findings on dental coverage for children. The independent evaluation, mandated by Congress and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and The Urban Institute, found that the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been a major success in expanding coverage and access to care for children across the country, especially where dental coverage is concerned. The Children’s Dental Health Project is heartened by the findings of this report given our original mission of securing a dental benefit in CHIP.

Specifically, the evaluation found that, compared to children who are privately insured, children enrolled in CHIP have greater access to dental coverage. In addition, families of CHIP enrollees experience less stress and lower financial burdens getting their children care. Overall, CHIP provides excellent access to basic care:

  • 90% of children enrolled in the program during the evaluation period had an established source of dental care

  • 80% of CHIP enrollees saw a dentist in the past year

There is, however, room for improvement. The report notes that some children struggled to receive preventive and follow-up care. For instance, nearly a third of children enrolled in CHIP did not receive follow-up dental when it was recommended by a dentist. The report notes a similar lack of follow-up treatment among privately-insured children which suggests systematic shortcomings with regard to oral health care that are not unique to any one program.

... compared to children who are privately insured, children enrolled in CHIP have greater access to dental coverage.

The report was less clear in terms of CHIP’s impact on improving oral health outcomes. The evaluation relied heavily on parent-reported health status data; while 52% of CHIP enrollees were reported to have excellent or very good dental health, dental health status varied widely from state to state. In addition, this loosely-defined measure of oral health status is difficult to compare to other indicators such as prevalence of cavities or untreated decay. This underscores the need for improved oral health surveillance mechanisms to provide a more robust measure of health outcomes.

As we approach the fall 2015 deadline for the extension of CHIP funding, this evaluation provides a timely reminder that the program is successful in nearly every measure. CHIP ensures that more than 8 million children have access to health and dental coverage while protecting families from unaffordable premiums and high out-of-pocket costs. Based on the metrics in this report and others, CHIP is a sound investment so let’s urge Congress to continue to fund it.

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Did you know?

44% }
of U.S. children will have at least one cavity by kindergarten.
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