440,000 Michigan children receive free dental care - WNEM TV 5

440,000 Michigan children receive free dental care

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LANSING, MI (WNEM) -

Healthy Kids Dental, a public-private partnership between the Michigan Department of Community Health and Delta Dental of Michigan, will now reach an additional 94,000 kids in need of dental care within the state.

Now serving 10 more counties, the program's expansion is a result of a $16.6 million budget increase approved by Gov. Rick Snyder and state lawmakers earlier this year.

"This recent expansion of Michigan's Healthy Kids Dental program is essential to ensuring we are providing quality health care for our children," said James K. Haveman, director of the MDCH. "Not only is Michigan now able to serve 440,000 previously underserved children, but we are building a stronger state by making it healthier."

Prior to Oct. 1, HKD was available in 65 counties across Michigan and served 346,000 enrollees. Now, the program will serve 440,000 children in 75 of Michigan's 83 counties. Counties impacted by the expansion include Bay, Befriend, Calhoun, Cass, Grand Traverse, Jackson, Mecosta, Montcalm, Osceola and Wexford.

Medicaid-eligible children and young adults under the age of 21 who reside in these counties will be enrolled automatically in the program, allowing increased access to dentists through the Delta Dental network.

"Currently, 80 percent of the dentists throughout the state participate in Healthy Kids Dental," said Laura Czelada, president and CEO of Delta Dental. "This is significant and allows us to provide children with more access to the dental care they so desperately need. Dental decay is the country's most chronic childhood disease.

"Our efforts to combat this serious health issue through this program, along with advocating for further expansion to all of the remaining counties, will always be a priority."

Studies show that children with HKD coverage are more likely to receive dental treatment than those with traditional Medicaid dental coverage. Dental visits are 50 percent higher for children who are enrolled in HKD.

Some factors contributing to this trend include more dentists accepting HKD than regular Medicaid and a larger dental network that makes scheduling dental appointments more feasible. HKD currently covers dental services such as X-rays, teeth cleanings, cavity fillings, root canals, tooth extractions and dentures.

HKD has garnered national attention since it began 12 years ago and has been recognized by the American Dental Association as one of five national models for improving access to dental care for low-income populations.

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