Current Massachusetts law allows private insurers to refuse reimbursement for general anesthesia and hospital costs in these cases, with the insurers citing the procedures as not medically necessary. As a result, many of these patients delay or forgo necessary dental treatment because their families cannot afford hospital and anesthesia fees, leading to lifelong negative health impacts and often, higher net medical costs.
Anesthesia Coverage for Children
- According to the Department of Public Health, 26% of all children under the age of seven in Massachusetts have special health needs.
- Children who have delayed dental extractions because they are unable to receive general anesthesia suffer further pain. The International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry published one study of a six-month waiting period between diagnosis and treatment where 49.4% of the children required antibiotics, 28.5% suffered disturbed and irregular sleep patterns, and 32.9% had problems with eating.
- At least 32 states have enacted legislation requiring private insurers to cover anesthesia for children hospitalized for dental treatment.
- A study conducted after legislation was passed in North Carolina in 2000 revealed a 60% increase in non-Medicaid visits and a 33% increase in Medicaid visits, with 43% more children overall seeking dental care.
- When Louisiana passed comparable legislation in 1997, a leading national medical insurance company indicated that the new law increased the cost of plans by less than 0.2%. This legislation would similarly allow increased access to care for vulnerable, special-needs patients without a significant cost increase.
To enable children with disabilities, certain medical conditions, and all children under the age of six to receive the dental care they need, An Act Relative to Anesthesia Coverage for Children Hospitalized for Dental Treatment would require health care plans to provide coverage for general anesthesia administered by an anesthesiologist in a hospital.