Passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and signed into law by President Obama on February 4, was a sweet start to National Children's Dental Health Month. The reauthorization represents a clear recognition on the part of our national policymakers that oral health is an important part of overall health. The SCHIP legislation includes a dental benefit guarantee, providing for oral disease prevention services, oral health promotion, and restorative and emergency care for millions of children whose families are unable to afford private dental insurance.
"This is a bill that was vetoed twice by the previous administration, and we recognize the importance of its passage now, as a significant step towards the inclusion of dental care in healthcare reform," said Beth Truett, president and CEO, Oral Health America. "The President and Congress are in agreement that access to dental care is a problem in the United States. The political will exists to find solutions to our healthcare crisis. We urgently need stakeholders, including the public, to be engaged in the process of developing a far-reaching health reform strategy — one that will include dental care."
The SCHIP bill doesn't stop with the guaranteed provision of services during these tough economic times, it also calls for outreach to all eligible children, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) Study and Report, and improved reporting mechanisms for utilization of dental care services. In addition, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) is now required to work with states and dental care providers to provide a list of covered dental benefits and an accurate list of all providers in the state, available online (www.insurekidsnow.gov) and by phone (1-877-KIDS-NOW).
The reauthorization secures SCHIP coverage for four and a half years, through September 30, 2013. The insurance is funded entirely through an increase in the federal tobacco tax to 61 cents per pack — additional good news for health advocates, as increased higher taxes have been proven to reduce tobacco use. Legal immigrant children and pregnant women are also covered by SCHIP.
Oral Health America is the nation's premier, independent advocacy organization dedicated to improving public health by eliminating oral disease, especially for our most vulnerable citizens, by educating and empowering communities to provide access to care, and advocating for policies that create oral health parity. To learn more about how you can participate, visit www.oralhealthamerica.org.