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Free dental care for children slated

The Caring Foundation for Children has room in its free dental care program for low-income, uninsured children in North Idaho.

The foundation was established by Regence BlueShield of Idaho four years ago after the insurance company studied what the greatest health need was for children in the state.

“It’s for the working families,” explained Georganne Benjamin, Regence spokeswoman. “In all our research, dental care is definitely seen as secondary. But it has such a profound effect on self-esteem, school attendance and overall health.”

Last year, the foundation served more than 700 Idaho children whose families make no more than 200 percent of the poverty level, said Tim Olson of Regence. For a family of four, the maximum annual income to be eligible for coverage is $38,700.

Nearly 90 dentists statewide are part of the foundation’s network and are paid by the foundation at rates that exceed the Medicaid rates.

While the foundation does have dentists who participate in the program statewide, including Coeur d’Alene and elsewhere in North Idaho, they participate at different levels, and more are encouraged to join, Olson said.

The dental program offers children up to $1,000 per year of oral health care, with a focus on preventative care. Children are enrolled for a year but can reapply a second year. Children with severe dental problems also have benefited through the program, such as one 4-year-old boy who could hardly eat because of abscessed teeth, Benjamin said.

The foundation raises its funds – which totaled nearly $600,000 last year – through grants, events and private donations. Regence covers the administrative costs of the program so all money raised goes directly toward dental care, Olson said.


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