New law improves access to dental care for children with developmental disabilities

Thursday, March 22, 2018

By Degadu
Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Wednesday 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.”

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.




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