For Immediate Release - May 24, 2011

Massachusetts Receives 'A' Grade for Children's Dental Services from Pew Center on the States

Commonwealth's grade rises from 'C' to 'A' in only one year

BOSTON - The Patrick-Murray Administration today announced that Massachusetts has earned an "A" grade for ensuring dental health and access to care for children from the not-for-profit Pew Center on the States. The report, titled "The State of Children's Dental Health: Making Coverage Matter," assesses and grades states on their success in ensuring that low-income children have access to basic, preventive dental care. Massachusetts is one of only seven states to receive an "A" grade and is acknowledged for the significant improvements it has made in the last year.

"Quality dental care for children is vital to their health and education," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "Children who do not have access to quality dental care are more likely to miss school days and more likely to become adults with dental problems, which can adversely impact their employment. In the last year, our MassHealth program has made significant strides to expand access to dental services for children, and our efforts are paying off."

A 50-state report card showed that just seven states, including Massachusetts, earned an "A" and that 23 states received a "C" or lower. The Commonwealth's "A" grade represents a two-letter grade improvement since the release of last year's report. The Pew Center recognized Massachusetts for the success of MassHealth's public health dental hygienists program, which has enabled hygienists to place protective sealants, especially in school-based programs; the notable increase in the number of high-risk schools with sealant programs; and the state's commitment to collecting data to track children's dental health.

According to the report, state policymakers can pursue a range of approaches that can be achieved at relatively little cost and with a significant return on investment for children and taxpayers. The Pew Center grades states on eight key approaches for promoting dental health for children, including school-based sealant programs; paying medical providers for preventive care; Medicaid program improvements that encourage more dentists to treat low-income children; and workforce development efforts to expand the number of dental providers, including dental hygienists and primary care dental professionals, who can provide care when a dentist is not available.

Massachusetts received a grade of "A" for meeting or exceeding at least six of the eight key benchmarks for dental policy approaches, including tracking of data on children's dental health; payment of Medicaid providers for early preventative dental care; and achieving a certain percentage of Medicaid children receiving dental services.

"We are extremely proud of the extraordinary progress we have made when it comes to meeting the oral health needs of MassHealth children," said Medicaid Director Terry Dougherty. "The Office of Medicaid continues to work diligently to build on our successes by further improving access to quality dental care for the underserved populations in Massachusetts."

The full 2011 report is available online at www.pewcenteronthestates.org.

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