Legislation protects Medicaid dental program but you wouldn’t know it from sloppy reporting

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

If you judge the passage of the this year’s Medicaid dental bill on recent headlines alone, you’d be led to think that the measure pulls dental coverage away from Florida’s neediest kids.

That would be terrible, if it were true.

As if 95% of the Florida Senate — including all but one Democrat — would be complicit in such a thing.

In truth, the measure (HB 819) protects children’s dental coverage by ensuring that those providing it are actually doing their job.  It was voted favorably by overwhelming margins in both chambers including by the Legislature’s two dentists, Rep. Fred Costello and Sen. Alan Hays.

The way the program is currently structured, expensive middlemen pocket sizeable portions of fees paid by the state while subcontracting with third parties to provide care to kids. All of this while providing zero transparency about what portion of dental dollars are actually spent toward that end.

This is exactly why the Florida Department of Corrections has rightly moved to negotiate dental care separately from medical coverage. DOC wants to guarantee that inmates are getting necessary dental treatments while protecting taxpayers, too.

Children are entitled to at least the same quality of care as inmates, wouldn’t you agree?

The majority of states negotiate dental care separately from medical plans and those that do so boast far higher utilization scores for kids. The bill in question would only require the Legislature to study the issue to make sure Florida’s program is structured in an optimal way moving forward.

OPPAGA will see to it that reliable, strong data tell that story. That’s all the bill does: require a study.

The bigger story here may be: have reporters really become so lazy as to avoid reading bills before opining on their content?

We’ve got Orlando’s WFTV suggesting this bill would wholly drop dental coverage (totally false); the Palm Beach Post suggesting that the bill would deprive adults of care (huh?); and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune posing commentary as fact, offering “Medicaid dental debate leaves out kids” (when anybody listening would know that the majority of testimony revolved around just that).

Yes, this bill was lobbied aggressively by health plans and dental plans alike. But focusing news stories on that is lazy at best and downright misleading at worst. Most weighty measures have stockpiles of lobbyists on board: there’s nothing new or newsworthy about that.

Florida’s children don’t care who paid what to whom as long as the dollars intended to treat their teeth are preserved for that purpose.

This bill will achieve that and add a much needed layer of transparency to an issue that rarely gets its fair shake of light.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.