As published as an editorial in The Hartford Courant, January 25, 2006.

Closing the Dental Care Gap

A donation of $350,000 made by the Anthem Foundation will dramatically increase the availability of dental services for low-income residents, for whom such care is often unavailable. The grant from the foundation, which is a branch of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, will pay to double the space for dental care at Hartford's Charter Oak Health Center on Grand Street by next summer.

The project is run in collaboration with the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, which helps staff the health center with students, medical residents and faculty members.

With its enlarged capacity, the health center plans to increase the number of dental patients that it serves annually from 6,500 to about 20,000. UConn hopes to make similar expansions at 10 other community dental clinics that it operates throughout the state.

Anthem's grant addresses a growing problem in Connecticut. Most Medicaid recipients have difficulty finding private dentists who will accept Medicaid reimbursement.

Studies show that only about 100 of Connecticut's 2,600 dentists provide care to the 185,000 children enrolled in the state's HUSKY program for needy families. Perhaps as a result, only 12 percent of those children have visited a dentist. Statistics for low-income adults aren't much better.

Anthem's grant should prompt more corporations and foundations to direct grants toward health care for the state's low-income residents.