Press Release

February 25, 2021
Cardin, Stabenow Seek to Close Important Gaps in Kids’ Dental Care

On anniversary of Deamonte Driver’s death, senators introduce measure to eliminate annual and lifetime limits on dental coverage under Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) 

Bill also requires and strengthens wrap-around coverage from CHIP for more children

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) today introduced new legislation that would significantly expand the 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” would eliminate the limits on coverage, both annual and lifetime, provided under CHIP, a federal-state partnership administered by states, according to federal requirements. The new bill, S. 448, also would require that CHIP wraparound dental coverage be the same as dental coverage for CHIP enrollees. And instead of simply allowing states to provide dental-only coverage to kids who would be eligible for CHIP, but for the fact that they are covered under a group health plan or employer-sponsored insurance, the new legislation requires it.

The senators are introducing the new legislation on the anniversary of the death of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Prince George’s County resident, whose tragic passing was entirely avoidable. What started out as a toothache turned into an abscess and then severe brain infection that an $80 extraction could have prevented. After multiple surgeries and a lengthy hospital stay, Deamonte tragically passed away 14 years ago today, illustrating the importance of National Children’s Dental Health Month, which we mark each February.

“Making sure kids have proper dental care is one of the most fundamentally important things we can do, yet too many children continue to fall through the cracks in our country. This new bill makes sure our safety net for pediatric dental health is both stronger and wider,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. “Time is of the essence when we’re talking about ensuring that kids have access to good dental care, as quality care during childhood can have life-long implications. The changes advanced in our new legislation provide targeted improvements to known shortcomings in our system, and we must address them immediately.”  

“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.

More information on CHIP is available here.