12:10 PM

DentaQuest Joins 122 State and National Organizations Urging Extension of CHIP Funding beyond FY 2015

By Steve Pollock, Chief Operating Officer

Since 1997, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has helped children of low income families get access to high quality health care – and since 2009, CHIP has included dental care.

Today, CHIP covers more than 8 million U.S. children in low income families whose income exceeds Medicaid eligibility levels. CHIP also offers financial protection from high out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.

CHIP is a public policy success story with bipartisan support from state and federal policy makers.

The program helps alleviate one of the biggest obstacles to getting preventive dental care – COST. Research shows that uninsured children are far less likely to receive medical/dental care than peers who have health insurance.1 Nearly half of all parents in a 2013 survey said that over the previous 12 months they or a family member had delayed seeing a dentist because they couldn’t afford the expected out-of-pocket costs.2 In a 2011 survey, 63 percent of parents said affordability was a key motivating factor for enrolling their children in the CHIP or Medicaid programs.3 Today, children enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP have much higher rates of access to and use of oral health services compared to children with no coverage.4

By providing affordable coverage to 8 million low-income children, including 52 percent of Hispanic children and 56 percent of African American children nationwide, Medicaid and CHIP address racial, ethnic and socioeconomic inequality in access to health care. One state found that disparities in access to care and unmet need among children were nearly eliminated during the year following enrollment in CHIP.5

Our mission at DentaQuest is to improve the oral health of all. Dental disease is the most common chronic illness among children. CHIP has made great strides in addressing this silent epidemic. DentaQuest is honored to be a partner with many state CHIP programs.

Today, the CHIP program is in jeopardy — despite 17 years of success.

The Affordable Care Act only assures funding for CHIP through FY 2015. It is now up to Congress to allocate funding for the program to continue. If Congress does not act, the CHIP program will dissolve and millions of children will transition to subsidized coverage on state-based or federally – facilitated Marketplaces.

Although Marketplace coverage may sound like an acceptable alternative to CHIP, it is not, especially when it comes to oral health.

Because of an unintentional loophole in the ACA, dental coverage for children (and adults) is optional through the Marketplaces. Additionally, families purchasing dental coverage through a Marketplace will face higher out-of-pocket costs and will likely find that the subsidies for which they are eligible do not apply to the dental premium. That can be a significant cost. Today, total family out-of-pocket costs for CHIP – including premiums — are limited to 5 percent of family income. 6

Our fear is that parents may not enroll their children and millions of children will lose access to critical oral health services.

For all these reasons, DentaQuest supports an extension of CHIP funding beyond FY 2015. We encourage our lawmakers to act now and approve an extension of CHIP funding before the end of the year.

Securing CHIP’s future will help ensure that we do not lose ground on our goal of improving the oral health of all.

1 “A 50-state examination of CHIP spending and enrollment,” The Pew Charitable Trusts , 2014

2 Dental care survey sponsored by the Children’s Dental Health Project and conducted by Wakefield Research, between September 26 and October 4, 2013. For a summary of the survey results, see: http://cdhp.s3.amazonaws.com/downloads/cdhp-wakefield-survey.pdf

3 “Informing CHIP and Medicaid Outreach and Education,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, November 2011, p. 13,

4 “The Effects of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program on Access to Dental Care and Use of Dental Services,” Health Services Research, August 2007

5 “The Impact of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): What Does the Research Tell Us?” Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014

6 “The Impact of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): What Does the Research Tell Us?” Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014