Kan. kids' dental program on hold

A Kansas program that provides cleanings, fluoride varnishes, and sealants to schoolchildren is on hold after managed care companies took over the state's Medicaid program.

The Kansas Cavity Free Kids program has provided oral healthcare services to more than 7,000 children in 41 rural counties since 2007, according to an article by the Kansas Health Institute. The program was planned to be expanded to other areas of the state where there is a chronic shortage of access to dental care.

But the program was effectively shut down after the launch of KanCare in January, when management of the state's Medicaid program was turned over to three managed care companies.

UnitedHealthcare, one of the state's three KanCare contractors, chose to stop paying for teeth cleanings done in Head Start classrooms, a decision that effectively put the entire program on hold.

The other two KanCare companies -- Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan, a Centene subsidiary -- continued the previous state policy of allowing dental care done in Head Start facilities to be billed under Medicaid. But state officials said the program could not continue serving children covered by those companies while turning away others covered by UnitedHealthcare.

Most of the services are on hold while Head Start officials determine if the contracts and billing for traveling hygienists can be shifted to cooperating safety net clinics or local health departments.

UnitedHealthcare is considering changing its policy after hearing about concerns at a KanCare oversight meeting, according to the Kansas Health Institute.

All three KanCare companies provide annual preventive cleanings for adults in their plans. Prior to KanCare, only children were eligible for oral healthcare under Medicaid.

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