Georgia is notoriously bad at health care, especially for its most vulnerable residents. Although Gov. Deal often blows Medicaid off as being “too expensive,” every year we see statistics about how much money the state would have saved by investing in preventative care and ending Deal’s Medicaid blockade. The most recent example of healthcare failure is the state of dental care for Georgia children.
Nicoleta Serban, an industrial and systems engineering professor, told state lawmakers that there are more than 500,000 Georgia children who are not eligible for the public insurance programs Medicaid and PeachCare, but whose parents cannot afford dental care.
Serban’s research also indicated that more than 600,000 children eligible for those government programs need to travel longer than 30 to 45 miles to reach a dentist to serve them.
These issues point to both access issues as well as what the Dental Association is referring to as a “barriers to care issue.” They noted that the barriers are often language and lack of transportation.
Regardless of the specific causes, if 20 percent of children in Georgia had preventative dental care starting in 2011, Medicaid would have saved $4-7 million per year, depending on how thorough the preventative care was. “Georgia is in need of transforming the dental care system,’’ Serban concluded.
Programs such as mobile dental programs and health clinics inside of Georgia schools have helped spread access and overcome some of the barriers to care, however they can’t change who has access to Medicaid and who doesn’t. In order for Georgia to offer acceptable preventative dental care and serve the hundreds of thousands of Georgia kids who are lacking either access or transportation, public insurance programs will have to adapt and Georgia voters will have to demand better from elected officials.