Series on Florida’s Medicaid system shines light on dental crisis for kids

Series on Florida’s Medicaid system shines light on dental crisis for kids

Monday, August 15, 2016

On any given day in Florida, two out of three Medicaid-enrolled children who need dental care do not receive it. Of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Florida ranked 50th in the percentage of Medicaid-enrolled children receiving dental care. These are just two of many statistics “that paint a disturbing picture of a key component of health care for children under the joint federal and state Medicaid program,” according to a recent story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune by healthcare reporter Maggie Clark.

The piece—“Shattered Smiles”—is part of an ongoing series by Clark on Florida’s Medicaid program for children.

Clark reports on the challenges for parents in finding a dentist to see Medicaid-enrolled children, including a limited number of dentists willing to provide care under the state’s system with its low reimbursement rate and inaccurate information on those that do. A result: millions of Florida children go without needed dental care, thus threatening their school performance and putting them risk for future dental pain and health problems.

A bright spot, however, was local community response to Clark’s reporting. A follow-up story states that “[after] publication of ‘Shattered Smiles’…the offers of help came rolling in.” These included multiple reader offers to help a family profiled in the story, a proposed charitable fund to sponsor children who need dental care, and a company's offer to donate its cavity-treatment product to any dentist who takes Medicaid patients. Clark also reported on an effort -- six months in the making and coordinated by Gulf Coast Community Foundation -- to provide free dental sealants to public school students and eventually reach younger and older populations with needed dental services.

For more on the Herald-Tribune's Florida Medicaid series, go here.

For more health indicators in the four-county Gulf Coast region, go here.