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Illinois House to Hold Appropriation Hearing on Improving Access to Dental Care for More Than 2 Million Children and Adults
Date:4/15/2008

Hundreds of Dentists Expected to Lobby Legislators on Three-Point Legislative Plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., April 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 220 dentists from across the State of Illinois are lobbying state legislators Wednesday to support a three-point legislative plan, which will improve access to dental care for thousands of working poor families.

Dentists from the Illinois State Dental Society (ISDS), Hispanic Dental Association, Lincoln Dental Society and other members of the Bridge to Healthy Smiles Coalition (http://www.BridgeToHealthySmiles.com) will meet with legislators at the State Capitol to educate them about the oral health care crisis that affects nearly two million working families in rural and urban Illinois. ISDS' annual lobby day is part of their 2008 Capital Conference.

Meanwhile, the Illinois House of Representatives Human Services Appropriations Committee will hear testimony from the ISDS about the importance of properly funding government sponsored dental coverage.

"We commend the Illinois House of Representatives for providing the forum to examine the funding shortfall, and for addressing the severity of this issue," said ISDS president, Keith W. Dickey, DDS. "We look forward to outlining the key issues, and providing viable and realistic solutions to improve dental access and coverage for Illinois families."

In Illinois 48 of 102 counties have been Federally designated as Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas because of limited or no access to dental care. Hundreds of thousands of working poor families who rely on programs such as Kidcare, All Kids, Family Care and Medicaid go without seeing a dentist, even when in pain. Because Illinois has among the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation, dentists who see public aid patients are forced to subsidize 54-percent of the procedure cost, making it unaffordable for them to serve this sector of patients. The result is a dental care gap in more than 40-percent of the state.

"It's imperative that we meet with our state officials to give them a first-person narrative of the crisis at hand," said Lincoln Dental Society executive director, Sheila Brown, DDS. "The situation affects families from Chicago to Southern Illinois every day. We implore our elected leaders to work with us on a long-term solution before they adjourn this summer."

The Bridge to Healthy Smiles campaign has proposed a comprehensive package of legislation that includes: raising the Medicaid reimbursement rate for dental care; opening 10 dental clinics by 2010 throughout Illinois for families in need, and providing incentives for new dentists to practice in underserved areas by forgiving a portion of their dental school loans.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, only 26 percent low-income families see dentists annually compared to 40 percent of middle-income families and 54 percent of high-income families.

"We've laid out a comprehensive plan that has been endorsed by some of the state's best dental practitioners and oral healthcare advocates," added Dr. Dickey. "This is a real solution to a longstanding problem that has plagued the healthcare industry for decades."

ISDS members are scheduled to testify about the importance of closing the dental care gap and offer solutions before the Human Services Appropriations Committee at 9 a.m. April 17.

About Bridge To Healthy Smiles Coalition

The Bridge to Healthy Smiles campaign is led by a diverse coalition working to improve oral health across the State of Illinois. Coalition members include: Illinois State Dental Society, Lincoln Dental Society, Hispanic Dental Association, Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, IFLOSS, Illinois Head Start Association, Illinois Society of Pediatric Dentists, Illinois Faith Based Association, Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Please visit http://www.BridgeToHealthySmiles for more information.


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SOURCE Bridge to Healthy Smiles Coalition
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