Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida’s already struggling dental health system for low-income children faces a major setback if Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature do not intervene on behalf of the state’s most under-served children, Medicaid dental providers and two state lawmakers warned today.
Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, joined by dentists Dr. Denise Vedrenne and Dr. Jose Mellado, said they are on a mission to save the state’s Prepaid Dental Health Plan, which currently serves some 1.8 million children. The Agency for Health Care Administration is proposing to eliminate prepaid dental plans for children and instead assign administration of the dental benefits to Statewide Medicaid Managed Care plans.
The Coalition for Independent Dentistry today sent a letter to Governor Scott opposing the proposal. A copy of the letter is attached.
“This is the worst possible move for children’s care, nothing more than a $200 million gift to Big Insurance,” said Dr. Vedrenne, a pediatric dentist in Marathon. “It would allow health plans to take the dollars currently allocated to children’s dental care and spend them on whatever they please. Even if all they do is subcontract dental services back to prepaid plans, they would take a cut and taxpayer dollars meant for children’s dental care will still go elsewhere. Make no mistake, kids will suffer.”
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said the merging of dental and medical programs means creating more bureaucracy and losing accountability to taxpayers. “Over the past three years, Governor Scott and the Legislature have worked hard to eliminate unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, delivering programs that really work and do what they are meant to do,” she said. “Allowing the prepaid dental program to be swallowed up into adult Medicaid health plans would be totally inconsistent with these values.”
The pediatric plan started in Miami-Dade County in 2004 and was expanded statewide last December. Prior to the program’s implementation, fewer low-income Florida children saw a dentist than in any other state in the nation, and almost no dentists were willing to participate in the plan. The prepaid plan measurably changed this directing 100 percent of the focus on children’s dental care.
The impacts of poor dental health in children are far-reaching.
“Without adequate dental care, kids are significantly more likely to have dental problems and pain,” said Dr. Mellado, a Miami periodontist. “Dental problems are strongly linked to missed school, lower grades and socialization problems, as well as costly health problems later in life. Allowing this policy change to happen could result in underfunded care for children and amplify all of these problems.”
AHCA has acknowledged that the $200 million that is now spent exclusively on children will be spent instead on a combination of children and adults, with adults likely to take at least half the designated amount.
“Historically, Florida’s Medicaid dental program has been a national embarrassment. The prepaid program changed all that, and we cannot afford to risk any change that would erase these important gains,” said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami. “Other states have tried to merge dental and health benefits under the same insurance umbrella, only to watch their efforts falter. These lessons have been learned, so Florida should not repeat the mistake.”
Sen. Flores and Rep. Diaz are sponsoring bills to require AHCA to maintain the prepaid dental program, alongside the statewide expansion of managed care.
For more information, visit www.flsmiles.net.