Washington Update

Improving Access to Oral Care for People with Intellectual Disabilities

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Over the last decade, numerous studies have affirmed that individuals with neurodevelopmental and intellectual disabilities (ND/ID) such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy do not receive adequate health and oral care.

The American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) is leading a movement to see that ND/ID populations receive the federal designation of Medically Underserved Population (MUP) in order to improve their access to both health and oral care.

The organization notes that many physicians and dentists do not receive exposure to this population during their training even though ND/ID individuals comprise 7% of the U.S. population. In contrast, only one-tenth as many U.S. residents are living with HIV, yet 80% of medical students receive clinical exposure to that population. This gap in the educational arena translates into significant oral care disparities received by people with ND/ID and those received by the overall population.

A federal MUP designation could begin to remedy these problems by permitting special Medicaid reimbursement rates, educational loan reimbursement programs, research opportunities, and other incentives that would attract oral care providers to increase work with ND/ID patients.

The Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) uses a formula, titled the Index of Medical Underservice, to determine whether a population should be accorded MUP status. With an estimated score of 54.1, under this formula ND/ID individuals should qualify for the underserviced designation afforded to all those with a score of less than 62.
Duggan ad 2013