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Gov. Snyder Plans To Expand Michigan’s Healthy Kids Dental Program To Cover an Additional 275,000 Kids

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Gov. Rick Snyder’s $54 billion 2016 budget for Michigan wasn’t an easy one to create, especially after it became clear that the state would have to cut funding in multiple areas due to a predicted $532 million in lost revenue. There’s one issue that Snyder isn’t giving up on, however: dental care for low-income families, especially kids.

According to the Detroit News, Snyder wants to expand the state’s taxpayer-funded dental program by allowing an additional 875,000 individuals from low-income families to be eligible for financial assistance that the program provides.

Snyder reportedly wants to add spaces for up to 613,000 low-income adults in the program by increasing the number of dentists that accept Medicaid insurance plans.

He also wants to expand the Healthy Kids Dental Program, which currently provides dental care for more than 544,000 children across 80 counties in Michigan. This new expansion would provide dental care to an estimated 275,000 children who come from low-income households in Wayne, Oakland, and Kent counties.

The Healthy Kids Dental Program, which began 15 years ago under former Gov. John Engler, has provided valuable dental care for thousands of children whose parents would otherwise be unable to pay for regular dental checkups. The Detroit News explains that children are automatically enrolled in the program if they’re under eight years of age and live in households that have an income 150% below the poverty level.

The expansion would cost an estimated $21.8 million for Michigan taxpayers and would certainly put an extra strain on the state’s already-tight budget, but it would provide invaluable healthcare advantages for children in Wayne, Oakland, and Kent counties. As MLive explains, these three counties are the only ones that aren’t covered in the Healthy Kids Dental Program, despite being the most populous counties in the state.

As the Michigan League for Public Policy has noted, this program expansion plan is “long overdue,” especially considering that dental health is much more affordable for households of any income level when it is preventative, rather than reactive. The cost to maintain one missing front tooth, for example, can range anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 over a lifetime — but with regular dental cleanings, kids can learn better dental hygiene practices to prevent tooth decay and dentists can catch cavities early with regular screenings.

While the program expansion will take a while to implement — in regards to the funding alone — it’s clear that Gov. Snyder has no intention of letting this major healthcare problem continue.

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