Friday, July 11, 2008

Changes Made In Maryland Due To Small Smiles Abuse of Children

Changes are being made for children needing dental care in Maryland, in part to ABC 7 I-Team's Small Smiles investigation.

The changes will affect tens of thousands of families who've had a tough time finding quality care. The overhaul will bring greater oversight and encourage more dentists to accept Medicaid families.

Most dentists won't treat children on Medicaid because it pays less than private insurance. The I-Team's investigation showed Small Smiles made up for low fees with high volume. Beginning the first week in July, Maryland Medicaid officials will begin pumping an additional $14 million dollars into the program to encourage more dentists to participate.

"The state is concerned overwhelmingly about two things: We want to make sure we have enough dentists who can provide services to the children, and we want to make sure that those services are of high quality," said John Folkemer with the Maryland Department of Health.

Before, Small Smiles would keep parents waiting in the lobby, and had no special training for dentists who routinely used restraining devices while treating young children.

"We have required them to do some corrective actions," said Folkemer, "and to change some of the policies."

Folkemer says parents must be allowed to stay with their children and dentists now receive training on how and when to use so-called papoose boards.

Also consent forms were changed which had falsely told parents that restraints posed "no known risks" to children. Small Smiles now warns parents of potential "serious consequences" of these restraints, including "physical or psychological harm even death."

"And we [also] will now have one organization that we can deal with to handle any such problems as have been raised as to the quality of care or access," said Folkemer.

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