Foster youth would benefit from stronger access to dental health coverage under a bipartisan bill recently introduced in Congress.
Foster youth already are entitled to dental coverage through Medicaid, but according to bill author Rep. Karen Bass (D) of California, foster youth make only spotty use of the benefits because many states don’t prioritize oral health care or treat it as optional.
And yet tooth decay is among the most common chronic health problems children and youth experience. The pain and other health conditions tooth decay leads to can interfere with the ability to work effectively in school and on the job.
Bass’ bill, the Foster Youth Dental Act of 2020, attempts to address the problem for current and eligible former foster youth by expanding the age requirement from 21 to 25, improving reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers of dental care, enhancing states’ outreach efforts for enrollment and protecting existing coverage for foster youth who move from one state to another.
“Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, it falls incumbent upon Congress to do everything we can to ensure we are providing the nearly half of a million youth in this country’s child welfare system with adequate health care,” Bass, co chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, said in a news release announcing the bill’s introduction.