Dental care for Montana children covered by the Healthy Montana Kids program will get a $650,000 boost this year, thanks to a donation by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana’s charitable foundation.
“The lack of dental health seriously impacts overall health,” said Sherry Cladouhos, president of Blue Cross and chairwoman of the Caring Foundation, a charitable group founded by the company. “This initiative literally puts the money where the mouth is: In dental care for kids.”
The Caring Foundation is donating $150,000 to the state to boost dental benefits for Healthy Montana Kids, a government insurance program for children in low- and middle-income families. The money enables the state to get a federal match of another $500,000.
Currently, Healthy Montana Kids covers up to $350 worth of dental work per year for each child covered by the policy.
The additional money will allow more children to get up to $1,000 worth of dental treatment, if needed.
An “extended dental plan” had offered to cover up to $1,000 of coverage on a first-come, first-served basis, but wasn’t able to meet all requests because of limited funding, state health officials said. The extra $650,000 from Blue Cross and the federal government will boost that program.
“This generous donation ensures that more Montana children will get the dental services they need,” said Anna Whiting Sorrell, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.
Healthy Montana Kids is the program that Montana voters approved in a 2008 ballot initiative, to expand government health coverage for up to 29,000 additional Montana kids.
It offers coverage for children in families that earn up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or $45,800 for a family of three.
The program, which expanded eligibility of two already established state- and federal-funded health programs, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, kicked off in October.
About 4,000 kids had been added to the program as of late last year, health officials said Monday. About 350 Montana dentists are treating kids covered by the program, the state said.
Blue Cross hopes to continue the donation past this year, the company said. Its Caring Foundation is supported by company-sponsored fundraising events, such as the Governor’s Cup road races and donations from Blue Cross employees.
Company spokesman Tim Warner said money paid as premiums by customers is not used for donations to the foundation.