The American Dental Association (ADA) named Michigan's Healthy Kids Dental (HKD) program one of five national models for improving access to dental care for low-income populations.
According to the ADA white paper, "State and Community Models for Improving Access to Dental Care for the Underserved," the program exemplifies innovative ideas and reflects a consensus that "only through public-private collaborations" will the nation make substantive progress in improving access to care for those in need.
HKD is a public-private partnership between the Michigan Department of Community Health and Delta Dental Plan of Michigan. It provides dental benefits for Medicaid beneficiaries under the age of 21. It is available in 37 Michigan counties and covers dental health benefits such as X-rays, cleanings, fillings, root canals, and extractions. The program currently serves 140,000 Michigan children.
"We are pleased that the ADA selected Healthy Kids Dental as one of five programs for other communities to consider as they address the issue of broadening access to dental treatment," said Dr. Thomas J. Fleszar, president and chief executive officer of Delta Dental Plan of Michigan. "Healthy Kids Dental is successful because it is the result of dynamic collaboration and it mirrors a commercial dental benefits program with competitive payment for care."
Fleszar said access to care is greatly enhanced because HKD beneficiaries see dentists who are members of Delta Dental's network. Many of these dentists are in the child's own community.
Studies show children with HKD coverage are more likely to use the benefits than those with traditional Medicaid dental coverage. A number of factors contribute to this: more dentists in Michigan accept HKD beneficiaries than those covered by Medicaid; a larger dental network has cut travel distance by half; and, because the program is administered like a private plan, HKD beneficiaries are more likely to get regular checkups.
The results of a survey conducted earlier this year showed that 96 percent of HKD parents were satisfied with the program, and 92 percent feel HKD coverage has improved their child's dental health. Focus groups with dental professionals revealed high satisfaction among dentists who cited administrative ease and market-based reimbursement levels as advantages of the program.
The other programs named by the ADA as national models are located in Tennessee, Alabama, Connecticut and Vermont. The ADA white paper is available at www.ada.org/prof/resources/topics/topics_access_whitepaper.pdf.