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House panel kills bill to change Medicaid dental programs for children

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On Tuesday, a Florida House panel killed a bill attempting to overhaul the Florida Medicaid program that provides dental care to children. With a 6-6 tie, the House Health Innovation Subcommittee shelved HB 601, filed by Tequesta Republican state Rep. MaryLynn Magar.

In the state’s new Medicaid managed-care structure, HMOs and other plans are responsible for offering dental care services to children in the system.

HB 601 sought to take pediatric dental services away from the broader Medicaid managed-care program, and move it to a system of prepaid dental plans. Supporters of Magar’s bill claimed changing the system improves dental care and expands the number of dentists treating children on Medicaid.

Ormond Beach Republican state Rep. Fred Costello, who is also a dentist, told the committee that the bill is “about taking care” of kids.

Opponents of the bill, which include Medicaid HMO representatives, argued against taking dental services from a comprehensive Medicaid managed-care system. The change could open the door for removal of other services from the Medicaid system.

Amerigroup Florida lobbyist Michael Garner pointed out an increase in the number of dentists serving children since last year’s change in the Medicaid managed-care system, and urged the committee to avoid backpedaling on the program.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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