Dentists enroll in low-cost health insurance program

June 15, 2006
Fresno (California) Healthy Kids program creates strong dentist network to provide low-income children gain access to dental care.

SAN FRANCISCO--It's one thing to enroll in a new low-cost health insurance program, quite another to actually find the care you need when you need it.

That's why on the heels of a major press event held last week with state health officials at the Cesar Chavez Adult Education Center in Fresno, Delta Dental, administrator for the dental portion of the Fresno Healthy Kids program, has announced that more than 213 local dentists are signed up to provide dentistry to the estimated 8,500 Fresno County children eligible for coverage.

"The good news is that we now have an excellent dentist network in place throughout Fresno County thanks to the steady progress we've made since February 1 when Fresno Healthy Kids was launched," said Michael Kaufmann, a Delta Dental senior vice president. "Our job is to make getting treatment as easy as possible, so that Fresno Healthy Kids enrollees get the preventive care they need to forestall the onset of more serious dental disease."

With current enrollment in Fresno Healthy Kids approaching 1,000 children, officials with the Children's Health Initiative for Fresno County hope that last week's outreach event with Kim Belshè, California's Secretary of Health and Human Services Agency, along with others planned, can help increase enrollment among more of the eligible population.

"The dental portion of this program fills a major need in this population," said Catherine Quinn, Executive Director of the California Health Collaborative, which acts as the Fresno Healthy Kids Plan Administrator.

"The incidence of dental disease among local children is exceedingly high, and the consequence of that extends to their ability to go to school, learn and become productive Central Valley residents."

Delta Dental officials, meanwhile, say they are working diligently to recruit as many local dentists as possible as more eligible children sign up for the program. Participating dentists agree to treat Healthy Kids enrollees on a reduced fee schedule that is paid by Delta Dental on behalf of Fresno Healthy Kids.

"Dentists who participate in this kind of program do so out of a sincere commitment to improve public oral health," said Gary D. Radine, Delta's president and chief executive officer.

"They, along with the First Five Fresno County, the Healthy Communities Access Project (HCAP), the local faith and non-profit community and many other groups are to be applauded for putting quality healthcare within the financial reach of so many children."