Quite a few folks in Tennessee are upset right now with DentaQuest, the giant dental benefits company that took over the contract to provide oral health services to poor kids under the state’s Medicaid program earlier this year.
Two hundred black dentists are riled that they were cut from the provider network. The state dental association has withdrawn its support for DentaQuest’s contract. And some consumers (including a group home operator) are saying the company is making it harder for patients to get the care they need.
Meanwhile, company officials insist that no child with TennCare benefits has lost access to dental care under their watch. They defend their performance in Tennessee, saying that screenings have increased and that the state network of 864 providers – one for every 857 patients – exceeds nationally recommended standards.
What is going on? The Tennessean’s Tom Wilemon has been working to find out. His story last month offered a look at the situation.
In this Q&A, he gives an update and some additional insights into his reporting. He also shares some wisdom with others who might find themselves tackling a similar story.
The rumblings in Tennessee started earlier this year, after a new company took over the contract to provide dental services to the state’s children covered by Medicaid.
Now the state dental association, a number of black dentists, a youth-home operator and at least one angry grandmother are weighing in against the Boston-based dental benefits giant DentaQuest. They claim the company is making it harder for poor kids in the state to get dental care.
The Tennessean’s Tom Wilemon captured the mood in a June 6 story, “Complaints Mount about TennCare Dental Provider:” Continue reading
While beauticians and tattoo artists are regulated in the state of Oregon, midwife certification is voluntary and, even then, the hurdles for certification are rather minimal.
But with midwives largely operating outside of the established health care system, there was little more than anecdotal evidence about the safety of home births to go on. That changed last year.
Markian Hawryluk, a health reporter with The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin and an AHCJ Regional Health Journalism Fellow, describes how he took advantage of new data collected by the state of Oregon to shape an article that revealed high mortality rates for home births in his state.
“If home birth were a drug,” he wrote, “it would be taken off the market.”
Read more about how he reported the story and get links to resources he used.
State and federal policymakers should take steps to make dental benefits less costly and more widely available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) according to a panel of experts convened by the nonprofit National Academy for State Health Policy.
While oral health advocates were heartened to see pediatric dental benefits included among the health reform law’s essential health benefits (EHB), the task of making them available on state marketplaces and getting consumers to buy them has proven to be complicated.
Dental benefits have traditionally been sold separately from other types of health insurance, and the “ACA and subsequent federal guidance treat pediatric dental benefits differently from the other EHB categories, creating unique challenges in implementing the vision of a guaranteed pediatric dental benefit,” concludes the experts’ report, released today. Continue reading
Photo: BlatantNews.com via Flickr
Recently, an editor sent me a study to cover on concussions in teenagers. At least, that’s what we thought the research was about, based on the title of its press release: “Teenagers who have had a concussion also have higher rates of suicide attempts.”
And I was excited to cover the study. Like gut bacteria and anything to do with chocolate or coffee or stem cells, concussion is a hot topic right now. That’s partly because brain scientists are just beginning to understand the lasting impacts of these sometimes subtle but probably cumulative injuries.
And they affect everybody from pro athletes to pee wee football players. So when parents and coaches see the word “concussion,” their thoughts rightfully turn to young athletes. About half of concussions in kids ages 8 to 19 are sports-related, according to a nationwide study of concussions published in 2010 in the journal Pediatrics.
The press release said the study found that kids who have had concussions were not only more likely to try to commit suicide, but to engage in other sorts of high-risk behaviors like taking drugs, stealing cars, setting fires and bullying.
The message here is that a kid who gets hit in the head too many times – presumably playing sports – might turn to drug abuse, self-injury and other sorts of criminal behaviors. And that’s the way it was covered in the press. Continue reading
Image by Victor Bonomi via flickr.
We know that about 45 percent of American kids are growing up in families that are poor or near poor, and that this degree of social inequality helps explain why the health status of Americans is failing to keep up with progress in other wealthy nations.
But how to make things better is not so clear, I insisted in a recent post. I may have spoken too soon. There is now solid evidence from a long-running study in North Carolina that early childhood programs can produce health benefits that persist into adulthood. Continue reading
Image by Herald Post via flickr.
Children’s dental benefits are listed among the 10 essential health benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet there is no federal requirement that people buy dental coverage for themselves or their children when obtaining health insurance on state marketplaces.
That lack of a mandate is having an impact, a new study from the American Dental Association concludes.
An average of just 15.9 percent of children obtained stand-alone dental coverage along with their medical plans across the 37 states included in the study. By the same measure, more adults – an average of 20 percent – obtained dental benefits along with their medical plans, according to the ADA’s analysis of data gleaned from the February 2014 marketplace enrollment report submitted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Continue reading
The state of Hawaii continues to investigate the death of a three-year-old girl who went into a coma after visiting a dentist’s office.
Last month, I wrote about the coverage by Susan Essoyan of the Honolulu Star Advertiser. I also put together a pediatric anesthesia tip sheet with links to some helpful resources.
In the meantime, reporter Alia Wong has also been following the tragic story of the death of Finley Boyle and weighed in with a long Jan. 21 piece for the Honolulu Civil Beat. Wong brings us up to date on the kinds of questions that are being raised in the wake of the child’s death. She writes that questions are being raised about whether dentist Lilly Geyer, who was treating Finley, should have been advertising herself as a “children’s dentist.”
And she explains that “pediatric dentists do a rigorous and competitive two-year residency program in which they get training in specific skills such as child sedation while general dentists aren’t required to do a residency program.”
In a Q&A for AHCJ, she reveals what other questions have come up and what she learned about sedating children for dental procedures. See what story ideas her experience might spark for you.
“You as a society have made a decision that child poverty is what you want. I can only assume that’s the case. Otherwise you would do what European countries are doing and use taxes and transfers to reduce child poverty.” – Michael Marmot
Sir Michael Marmot isn’t the first to call out the United States for its exceptionally high rate of child poverty. About 45 percent of American kids are growing up in families that are poor or near poor (below 199 percent of the federal poverty level), up from 40 percent in 2006, according to a recent analysis.
This degree of social inequality helps explain why the health status of Americans is failing to keep up with progress in other wealthy nations. But how to make things better is not so clear. Two remarkable studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association this month highlight some of the paradoxes and hidden pitfalls inherent in efforts to boost the socioeconomic status of poor kids. Continue reading
Open wide! A free one-day dental clinic for low-income children may be coming to a school or community center near you.
February is Children’s Dental Health Month, an opportunity for oral health professionals and advocates to raise awareness about the importance of getting care to kids, particularly those who might otherwise go without.
On Friday, Feb. 7, the American Dental Association is officially kicking off its 12th annual Give Kids a Smile Day program with free care for kids at the Howard University College of Dentistry here in Washington, D.C.
Similar events are being planned throughout the country. To find out what is going on in own area, check with your local or state dental society.
Give Kids a Smile clinics are typically organized differently than the big free Mission of Mercy events that have crowds of adults lining up spontaneously at fairgrounds and gymnasiums. The 175 children expected at the Howard University dental college were screened in December by volunteer dentists who visited local elementary schools. The kids will be getting their needed follow-up treatments on Give Kids a Smile Day. Continue reading