Dental groups lament SCHIP failure

Hopes for expanding government-subsidized dental care dimmed Thursday as the House of Representatives failed to override Pres. George W. Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) reauthorization bill.

The override failure sends dental lobbyists back to the halls of Congress where they hope to preserve mandatory dental care in any new version of the legislation.

"We've been asking our grassroots dentists to contact their representatives and support this legislation," William Prentice, director of the American Dental Association's Washington office, told "We want to make sure that whatever changes they make, they include the dental provisions."

SCHIP provides medical insurance to about 10 million children whose families can't afford the insurance on their own but are too "wealthy" to be eligible for Medicaid. States have the option of using the money to provide dental insurance as well. While all states are currently providing dental care through SCHIP, some have suspended the dental insurance provision in past years when their budgets were tight.

An estimated 40 million children have no dental insurance, and caries is the most common preventable disease among children.

The bill aimed to expand the number of children in the program. In vetoing the legislation, Bush said he wanted to reauthorize the program, but was . But he worried that the bill would include middle class families. "Our goal should be to move children who have no health insurance to private coverage, not to move children who already have private health insurance to government coverage," he told Congress.

Prentice argued that the bill, in fact, would actually have resulted in fewertightened restrictions on relatively wealthy families and more reached out to more poor ones getting subsidized care.

Bush's veto also drew condemnation from the Academy of General Dentists, the American Association of Public Health Dentists, the American Dental Education Association, Oral Health America, and the American Dental Hygienists Association.

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