A year after the death of Deamonte Driver, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings announced legislation yesterday to increase children's access to dental care.

Driver, a homeless 12-year-old from Prince George's County, died last February after an untreated tooth infection spread to his brain. He was eligible for Medicaid, but his mother said she was unable to locate a dentist who would treat him.

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"There is no excuse for Deamonte's death, and the fault lies with every single one of us for letting him slip through the cracks," said Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat. "During the past year, we have made great strides on all fronts to ensure that every other Deamonte out there has access to dental care. This tragedy should never have taken place, and this critical new legislation will ensure that we bring life from this child's death."

According to Cummings' office, the Deamonte Driver Dental Care Access Improvement Act of 2008 would:

  • Provide grants to federally qualified community health centers to expand the dental services they provide to underserved populations. Such services would include mobile dentistry and teledentistry.
  • Create a pilot program to test models of an allied dental health professional whose purpose is to increase access to care for underserved populations.
  • Provide a tax credit up to $5,000 for dentists who treat Medicaid, CHIP, and uninsured patients.
  • Direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a public education and prevention campaign on children’s dental health.
  • Require states to report annually to the federal government details on children’s access to dental care under their Medicaid and SCHIP plans.
  • Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to coordinate prenatal and maternal child health programs to ensure they include dental health promotion in their activities.
  • Direct the Comptroller General to evaluate the adequacy of Medicaid and SCHIP reimbursement for dental services.
  • Provide grants to train dentists, hygienists, and dental students in pediatric dentistry.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Sen. Thad Cochran are backing a Senate version of the bill.

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