New Medicaid data shows progress amid challenge

By: Meg Booth

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the most recent state level data for dental services provided through the Medicaid program, showing that a higher proportion of children are receiving dental care but revealing the significant challenge that remains.

The 2000-2012 data show children’s utilization of preventive dental services increased from 23% to 42% and their access to treatment services grew from 15% to 23%. The report conducted by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, provides a detailed description of the impact of changes in reporting instructions for CMS dental data and makes the state-by-state data easily accessible for comparison across states.  

Overall, the percentage of children who received some kind of dental service jumped from 29% to 48%.

While the overall increase of all dental services from 29% to 48% is a tremendous step forward, we at the Children's Dental Health Project remain concerned that more than half (52%) of Medicaid-enrolled children are still not receiving dental care. These remain the most challenging families to engage due to what is likely a complex set of barriers. With our focus on directing resources towards families at the greatest risk for disease, it’s worth noting that these families who lack access to dental services are the target group that may require alternative strategies in terms of outreach and care delivery.

The report provides analysis of data that may otherwise be cumbersome for Medicaid officials and advocates to use to compare themselves to other states and learn from the successes and challenges of their peers. We applaud CMS for releasing this report, which will allow states to examine their progress and start a discussion about how to use the next decade to further this trend of improving access to care.

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Did you know?

Children with poor oral health were nearly 3x more likely to miss school due to dental pain.
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