Tooth decay is the most common chronic condition among youth, and youth from households that are low-income are twice as likely to have cavities as children from higher income households (CDC). Foster youth in particular have significantly higher dental needs and more dental problems than children not in the foster care system (Morón et al., 2019). 39% of youth who aged out of foster care do not have dental insurance, and foster alumni without dental insurance are 93.5% less likely to have their dental needs met (Carrellas et al., 2018). Unresolved dental problems have been shown to impede former foster youths’ employment prospects, independence goals, and overall quality of life.
On August 28th, Rep. Karen Bass and 13 co-sponsors introduced the Foster Youth Dental Act of 2020 (H.R. 8118) in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 8118 would “increase eligibility for dental protections under Medicaid, providing incentives for dental providers to participate in these programs, enhancing outreach efforts for enrollment, and protecting existing coverage for foster youth., 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.” said Rep. Bass.
Despite the importance of dental care for youths’ health and wellbeing, Medicaid does not cover dental insurance past the age of 20. Furthermore, only emergency dental coverage is guaranteed, meaning that the large majority of foster alumni forgo routine dental treatment that is known to prevent more serious diseases and complications.
Here is the proposed legislation, if you would like to read it,