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Children with special health care needs to receive vital dental care under new law

Gov. Inslee signs bill expanding ABCD program for developmentally disabled kids

From a press release:

Gov. Jay Inslee today signed legislation expanding Washington’s landmark ABCD program to provide improved access to preventive dental care and treatment for Medicaid-eligible children age 6 through 12 who have developmental disabilities.

The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA), the state agency managing the Medicaid program, estimates that an additional 4,000 children are eligible for dental care with the expansion of the program.

“Children with developmental disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing poor oral health,” said Dr. John Gibbons, a Tacoma-area pediatric dentist and Public Policy Advocate for the Washington State Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. “Expanding the ABCD program to care for some of our state’s most vulnerable kids helps ensure that children with special health care needs have access to preventive care and early treatment to live healthier and pain-free.”

The nationally recognized Access to Baby and Childhood Dentistry (ABCD) program provides dental care to children under six years old who are enrolled in Medicaid. With ABCD, the percentage of Apple Health (Medicaid) insured children under age 1 with a dental visit has doubled in the last 10 years and the rate of untreated decay among lower-income preschoolers was cut by 35 percent since 2005. In King County, 32,606 young children receive essential oral health care through ABCD. Statewide, ABCD currently helps nearly 165,000 children five and under access care.

ABCD reduces disparities, helps children get off to a healthy start and saves money. Dental costs are nearly cut in half for children who receive their first preventive visit by age one compared to children who have their first visit between the ages of four and five.

The Pew Center on the States praised the ABCD program for achieving significant results while “delivering a strong return on taxpayers’ investment.”

Arcora Foundation, the foundation of non-profit Delta Dental of Washington, helped expand ABCD from Spokane to all of the state’s 39 counties with statewide leadership, management assistance, evaluation, advocacy and more than $3 million in 3-year startup grants for local coordination, case management, and community outreach.

“Washington is a national leader in preventive dental visits for young, lower-income children because as a state we recognize that oral health is essential, for children and all people,” said Diane Oakes, CEO of Arcora Foundation. “A healthy mouth free from pain and disease is a foundation for learning, employment and active aging, and a person’s oral health affects their overall health.”

Arcora Foundation is dedicated to expanding oral health care access and reducing health disparities in Washington State. The Foundation advocated for SSB 6549, the legislation expanding ABCD to Medicaid-eligible children up to age 13 with disabilities.

A report published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that as a group, children with developmental disabilities are more likely to have unmet dental needs than are typically developing children and are considered to be at greater risk of developing dental disease.

In the current and expanded ABCD program, participating providers receive specialized training and enhanced reimbursement rates for certain services. These higher reimbursement rates, combined with patient outreach and care coordination, make it easier for more providers to participate in the Medicaid program so more patients can get the care they need.

Though largely preventable, oral disease is widespread, debilitating, costly and linked to heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy complications and other serious medical conditions. On the other hand, prevention and early treatment help avoid or reduce many of these problems. For example, preschool children who received preventive dental care have been found to have 40 percent lower dental-related costs over a five-year period than children who began care at a later time, and also need less subsequent dental care.

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