Recently, an expansion of the state’s Healthy Kids Dental (HKD) Program in Michigan has been approved by the legislature.  Now, more children in Michigan will be able to receive dental coverage to lead a healthier life.

Previously, the HKD program had been providing dental care services to children all the way to age of 20 in all but three counties. In the Wayne, Kent and Oakland counties, the program offered dental care services to children till the age of 12 years. However, with the expansion of this program, these three states will now enjoy extended dental care services for the children till the age of 20 years. After the program expansion, the main aim of the oral health care services delivery will be primarily focused on older children between the ages of 13-20 years.

The program automatically enrolls eligible children, who are then given a diagnosis and proper preventive treatment for oral health conditions. The dental care services delivered through HKD program include X-rays, prophylaxes (tooth cleaning), dentures, fillings, space maintainers, root canals, tooth extraction, fluoride treatments, dental crowns as well as emergency management of aggravated tooth pain.

These treatments are provided by dentists who participate in the HKD program. Currently, about 80% of Michigan’s dentists have joined this program.

Healthy Kids Dental (HKD) program was initiated in the year 2000 with an aim of providing improved and accessible dental care services to the children of the state of Michigan. The program runs through collaborated efforts between Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Delta Dental. HKD program joined hands with the Michigan dentists to achieve the desired results from this program. Today, HKD program functions in all the 83 counties of Michigan providing dental care services to over 810,000 Medicaid-eligible children.

Medicaid eligibility of a child refers to his or her eligibility of receiving health insurance from the federal government. About 43 million children in the US benefit from this state-facilitated medical coverage, with half of the children belonging to low-income families. A threshold value is set by the state that determines a family’s eligibility to be entitled to this coverage, based on the family’s annual income.

On an average, children coming from families with incomes up to $44,700 per year are likely to be eligible for receiving Medicaid coverage. However, states are given the autonomy to make amendments to this state decided minimum value, in order to help an increased number of children with their health care service provisions.

President of the Michigan Dental Association, Dr. Larry DeGroat has welcomed this commendable move saying; “We applaud lawmakers for stepping up and helping to eliminate barriers for all children in Michigan. Providing access to the best and safest oral health care to all Michigan residents is our No. 1 priority. Although there is still more work to be done by recognizing the importance of providing dental care coverage and removing barriers to care, expanding access to all kids is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Earlier, for the expansion of Health Kids Dental Program in year 2016, the state governor recommended a fund allocation of $21.8 million, inclusive of $7.5 million in state funds to reach out to 210,000 more children within the age bracket of 0 to 8 years in Kent, Oakland and Wayne. Over 170,000 older children still remain uncovered but overall, it was an important step forward. There was a unanimous approval of the recommendation in the house. The senate, however delayed the approval of the coverage till July 1, 2016. Nevertheless, a final budget approval surfaced with a legislature expanding coverage to more than 290,000 children in these three counties.  This coverage has added a massive $37 million amount in the total funds, out of which $12.7 million comes from the state funds.

It is noteworthy that after the Medicaid coverage to families for their children’s oral health care, there has been increased frequency of dental visits. The comparison was made with traditional Medicaid Fee-For-services (FFC) dental coverage.  With increased visits to the dentists, the oral health is bound to improve amongst the population. Measures to prevent common dental problems in children, such as tooth decay, can then be undertaken successfully. Prevention is always better than cure and this oral health care program does just that.