Cardin Remembers Deamonte Driver, Calls for Pediatric Dental Coverage Affordability

On the floor of the US Senate yesterday, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) noted the sixth anniversary of the death of Deamonte Driver, a 12 year-old Maryland boy who died from untreated tooth decay; what started as a cavity became a deadly brain infection. Since Deamonte's death, Senator Cardin said, Maryland has taken steps to increase access to dental care for those on Medicaid insurance and the Congress included landmark oral health provisions in the 2010 Affordable Care Act (PDF attached).

The most important oral health provision in ACA, Cardin emphasized, is a requirement that health plans cover a set of essential health benefits (EHB) that include pediatric dental care. He went on to say, “Now, the affordability of that benefit is at risk." Last week, HHS published a final rule allowing for a separate out-of-pocket limit for stand- alone dental plans in addition to the out-of-pocket limit already established by the law for a family's EHBs, but only specifies that the limit be reasonable. Unfortunately, without further action by HHS, this means that families could see their annual out-of-pocket expenses increase by as much as $1,000 per child. "This is not what Congress intended," Cardin said. "The whole point of adding pediatric dental benefits to the essential health benefits package was to make certain that oral health not be considered separate from overall health.”

The Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP) has been working with Sen. Cardin since the passage of ACA to ensure that the pediatric oral health benefit is meaningful and affordable. CDHP is gratified that Sen. Cardin continues to advocate for kids’ oral health and that he and other lawmakers share our disappointment and concern with the rule. We will continue to work with HHS and Members of Congress to ensure that affordable pediatric dental insurance becomes available in 2014.

Here is a link to Cardin’s full statement; see CDHP’s first response to the new rule here.

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