On Tuesday, The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) applauded the approval by both congressional chambers of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization bill, which included many beneficial dental provisions. The bill will now be delivered to the Oval Office, seeking the approving signature of President Bush, who has already stated that he is most likely to veto the bill because of too much spending authorization.
The bill passed by both chambers includes “coverage of dental services necessary to prevent disease and promote oral health, restore oral structures to health and function, and treat emergency conditions.”
AGD asserts that dental care is a basic and necessary health care service for children, one which can prevent systemic and oral disease. Dental care professionals agree that early and preventive treatment has demonstrated very significant cost effectiveness, especially among low-income children.
At present, nearly 23 million American children go without dental health insurance.
“A guarantee of dental coverage in SCHIP was a top priority for our members. Our members sent letters and met in person on Capitol Hill with lawmakers to urge them to include this provision in the final bill. It appears that these efforts paid off,” says Janet Kopenhaver, AGD’s Washington Lobbyist.
Recently, President Bush told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that despite powerful Congressional support he is still going to veto the SCHIP reauthorization bill, just as he promised he would in advance unless drastic proposed spending additions were cut from the bill.
Pelosi responded by saying that she would “have to pray a little harder” for him to change his mind.
The Bush Administration has proposed a five-year $5 billion increase in SCHIP funding. The Democratically-controlled Congress has proposed $35-$50 billion in increases over that same time period. Critics of this spending increase are not fond of the fact that the newly authorized program would make some families who earn in excess of $80,000 per year eligible for the government-funded health insurance, calling it a new “middle class entitlement” that those families should be able to afford for themselves. Critics are also not happy that much of the funding for the larger reauthorized program would come from a significant federal tax on cigarettes, which they deem both counterproductive and hypocritical.
The President has said that once the Congress sees that he has been serious all along about vetoing the bill, he would like the Legislative and Executive branches of government to sit down and have a serious meeting about the best way to continue the program.
“Access to care, especially for children, is one of the AGD’s top legislative priorities for this year. The inclusion of guaranteed dental coverage in the final SCHIP bill will ensure that millions of children receive essential oral health care,” stated AGD’s President, Vincent Mayher, DMD, MAGD.
Officially, the program ended on September 30th.
The Academy of General Dentistry (PR Newswire), “AGD Applauds Congressional Support of SCHIP Reauthorization”