Press Release

February 2, 2023
Cardin, Stabenow and Barragán Urge Expanded Dental Coverage for Children
At the start of Children’s Dental Health Month, this bicameral legislation would mandate dental coverage be offered to eligible children through CHIP

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), along with Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragán (Calif.-44) today announced the reintroduction of legislation that would significantly expand dental insurance coverage available to vulnerable children nationwide through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently provides health coverage to 9.6 million, through both Medicaid and separate programs.

The Ensuring Kids Have Access to Medically Necessary Dental Care Act (S. 109 / H.R. 590) would eliminate lifetime and annual limits for dental care for children under CHIP.  The bill would also require states to provide “wraparound” CHIP dental coverage, meaning CHIP would cover dental services for eligible children who are not enrolled in CHIP. Currently, if a child is eligible for CHIP but instead has coverage under a group health plan or employer-sponsored insurance, states have the option of providing dental-only coverage to this child through CHIP. This bill requires that dental coverage be offered.

“Good oral health is essential to overall health, especially for children. Our legislation fills in the gaps to ensure that no child is left without access to proper dental care,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. “Tragically, we have seen what can happen when basic pediatric dental care is out of reach. We cannot let another child suffer from wholly preventable issues that start with untreated tooth decay.”

“Children need good dental care to grow up healthy and happy. But right now, that care is still out of reach for many families. Senator Cardin and I partnered together to make it easier for kids to get the care they need by improving dental coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” said Senator Stabenow.

“It’s simple: when kids need to see a dentist, they should be able to see a dentist,” said Rep. Barragán. “Poor dental health as a child can lead to lifelong complications and too many children in America cannot access the care they need.  This bill will help thousands of children start off on the right foot with accessible and affordable dental healthcare.”

Research on childhood oral health care indicates that dental care is the most common unmet treatment need in children.Many low-income families face barriers such as accessibility and costs that deter them from seeking oral care services, leading to increased risk of dental diseases or dental emergencies.Children in low-income families, including those covered by Medicaid and CHIP, are twice as likely to have untreated tooth decay compared to children with higher incomes.Thus, annual and lifetime limits further exacerbate unmet treatment needs for CHIP children by placing a financial burden on low-income families.

More information on CHIP is available here.