DAYTON — When 12-year-old Deamonte Driver of Maryland died last year following an untreated toothache, it put the public on notice for what health experts already knew: Dental health is a critical component of overall health, but if you're a child from a poor family, good luck getting it.
That's the story across much of the nation, including in Ohio, where dental care is the No. 1 unmet health care need for children and low-income adults, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Dentists and health experts lay most of the blame on Medicaid, saying the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled pays only about half of what dentists charge for their work and not enough to cover expenses.
That's despite federal Medicaid law that requires states to "assure that payments are ... sufficient to enlist enough providers so that care and services are available" to Medicaid recipients to the same extent they're available to the general population.
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