New law helps families access dental care for children with disabilities
Getting children to the dentist can be a chore of any parent, but if the children have disabilities, the challenge of finding a dentist and the costs associated with treatment can be especially daunting.
That’s because often the handful of dentists who provide the specialized treatments needed for those young patients aren’t included in a company’s dental plan and parents are stuck with bills running into the hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Now, that’s changed, under legislation Gov. Jack Markell signed into law last Thursday, June 25.
Senate Bill 65, sponsored by Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, Sen. Patricia Blevins and Rep. John Kowalko, requires insurance companies to pick up the cost of out-of-network dentists for patients of children with severe disabilities when their in network dentist cannot provide the care needed.
“As the parents of severely disabled children know too well, it is difficult to identify dentists willing and able to provide their kids with effective dental care,” Markell said. “This law removes a barrier that prevents children with disabilities from receiving dental care.”
Hall-Long said she wanted to take up the issue when parents and representatives of the state’s disabilities community and dentists brought information on the issue to her.
“This isn’t a large number of children,” Hall-Long said. “But the difference we can make in for the children’s oral health is huge and easing the stress on these parents due to the costs associated with getting their children the dental care is significant. I’m glad we were able to work with the advocates, dentists, insurance industry, and parents to get this bill through and to the governor.”
Kowalko said the law will help keep families healthy both physically and financially.
“This brings a sense of relief and eases a huge financial burden that is often foisted upon parents of children with disabilities,” Kowalko said. “This law will enable those children now disadvantaged by circumstance and monetary reason to be treated not only with respect, but with regard to their health.”
Patricia Maichle, the senior administrator of the state’s Developmental Disabilities Council, said the issue was a top priority for her group this year. Maichle said she was motivated after learning of a 20-year-old who had to have 12 teeth pulled because his family couldn’t find dental care.
“To me, it was unconscionable that, in this day and age in America, someone had to have half their teeth pulled because a family couldn’t get the affordable dental care they needed, despite having dental coverage” she said.
“I want to give Sen. Hall-Long and Rep. Kowalko credit. They said they’d get this taken care of and they did just that. I also want to give credit to the insurance companies who were willing to come to the table and work on this with us,” Maichle added.