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Medicaid Meets Its Equal Access Requirement For Dental Care But Oral Health Disparities Remain

Author: Jaffer A. Shariff, Burton L. Edelstein
$15.00

Most US children today have public or private dental health insurance, yet oral health among publicly insured children remains a policy concern. We analyzed data for 2011–12 from the National Survey of Children’s Health to compare oral health status and the use of dental care among publicly and privately insured children. After we adjusted for demographic and parent characteristics, we found no differences between the two groups in parent-reported use of dental care or unmet need for dental care. However, compared to parents of privately insured children, parents of publicly insured children were less likely to report that the condition of their child’s teeth was excellent or very good and more likely to report that the child had had a dental problem in the past twelve months. Family income differences between the groups accounted for much of this disparity. Our findings suggest that Medicaid is meeting its mandate to ensure that dental care is as available for children in the program as it is for privately insured children, but refinements in Medicaid policy are needed to improve poor children’s oral health.

Most US children today have public or private dental health insurance, yet oral health among publicly insured children remains a policy concern. We analyzed data for 2011–12 from the National Survey of Children’s Health to compare oral health status and the use of dental care among publicly and privately insured children. After we adjusted for demographic and parent characteristics, we found no differences between the two groups in parent-reported use of dental care or unmet need for dental care. However, compared to parents of privately insured children, parents of publicly insured children were less likely to report that the condition of their child’s teeth was excellent or very good and more likely to report that the child had had a dental problem in the past twelve months. Family income differences between the groups accounted for much of this disparity. Our findings suggest that Medicaid is meeting its mandate to ensure that dental care is as available for children in the program as it is for privately insured children, but refinements in Medicaid policy are needed to improve poor children’s oral health.

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