CHICAGO--The Academy of General Dentistry was disappointed by President Bush's recent decision to veto the State Children's Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill.
The SCHIP bill agreed upon and passed by both chambers of Congress included many important and beneficial dental provisions intended to provide for the oral healthcare of our nation's children. However, President Bush, who had threatened to veto this bill, did so.
"With October being Children's Health Month, the timing of this presidential veto is ironic and inappropriate. We are saddened to see a lack of regard for the healthcare of our future generations," said AGD President, Vincent Mayher, DMD, MAGD. "The inclusion of guaranteed dental coverage in the final SCHIP bill (a top legislative priority for AGD members) would have ensured that millions of children would receive essential oral health care."
Currently, approximately 23 million children are without dental care insurance in the United States.
As sent to President Bush, the SCHIP reauthorization bill includes "coverage of dental services necessary to prevent disease and promote oral health, restore oral structures to health and function, and treat emergency conditions."
The bill also contains language on dental education for parents of newborns, reporting information on dental health, inclusion of specific dental requirements in a new set of child health quality measures in Medicaid and SCHIP, and a Government Accountability Office study and report on access to dental services for children in underserved areas.
"This battle is far from over," said Janet Kopenhaver, AGD's Washington lobbyist. "Our members will be contacting their legislators to urge them to support an override vote of this egregious veto."
Legislators' votes on this bill will be a "scorecard component" when the AGD grades lawmakers serving in the 110th Congress on their commitment to basic oral health care services for all.
"This veto was a missed opportunity to protect the health of our nation's most vulnerable population--the children," Kopenhaver added.
Myron J. Bromberg, DDS, chair of AGD's Legislative and Governmental Affairs Council, notes that, while an override is hoped for, it may not occur for political reasons; Republican legislators will have to decide if they will vote to override a veto by a Republican president.
Dental care is a basic and necessary health care service for children, and can prevent systemic and oral disease. Early and preventive treatment has a proven track record of cost effectiveness, especially among low-income children. The success of SCHIP in decreasing the number of uninsured children has significantly improved the health-status of children from lower-income families; this program needs to be continued.
The SCHIP was authorized by Congress in 1997 to expand public health care availability to low-income children and families. At that time, SCHIP gave $40 billion to states for 10 years to provide coverage for children living in families who earned too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. Today, this successful program covers more than six million children.
For more information about the AGD, visit Academy of General Dentistry.