Wednesday, December 26, 2007

In Kentucky and West Virginia, most poor kids who could get free dental care don't

"Most of the 200,000 West Virginia children covered by Medicaid don’t see a dentist, even though they’re entitled to a full menu of dental services," Eric Eyre of The Charleston Gazette reports in his latest story on oral health in the state. "At last count, about 64 percent of kids with Medicaid weren’t going to a dentist, according to 2003 data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid." The figure for Kentucky is similar.

This Gazette photo, of Dr. Bridget Boggs Stevens extracting a tooth from a six-year-old, is emblematic of The Mountain State's oral-health issues. "West Virginia dentists have billed the state more to pull children’s teeth than to clean them" in the last four years, . "From 2003 through last year, the state was billed more than $15 million for children’s tooth extractions, and $13 million for cleanings," Eyre writes. "Last year, the Medicaid office spent $11 million on children’s extractions and fillings, but only $6 million on prevention treatments."

After analyzing more than 3.3 million Medicaid claims submitted by dentists since 2003, the Gazette also found that "The number of cleanings, fluoride treatments and sealants all decreased from 2003 to 2006. At the same time, extractions also declined — a positive sign.
Routine teeth cleanings dropped from 95,566 in 2003 to about 87,971 last year. And they’re on pace to decline even further, to about 86,000 at the end of this year."

Shannon Landrum, executive assistant to the state Medicaid commissioner, told Eyre, "A lot of our members access the medical system for crisis, not for prevention. It’s our goal to change that." (Read more)

No comments: