It reauthorizes a legislative task force to guide implementation of federal health reform. Among the decisions the task force will face is how to insure Utahns who earn incomes just above Medicaid-eligible levels, those at 133 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
The group will also take part in designing the essential benefits package, the minimum set of benefits that virtually all Americans must have in 2014. In addition, the bill would give parents with kids on CHIP the option of switching to subsidized, private coverage for the whole family.
The omnibus measure passed the House and rests now with the Senate. If passed, the reduction in CHIP dental benefits wouldn't take effect until July 1.
Low-income advocates back the change, fearing that if too much money is spent straightening teeth, the state will cut corners elsewhere, possibly lowering payments to dentists for preventive care.
CHIP is a health safety net for children of working, low- and middle-income parents who don't have access to employer-based coverage. A family of four must have a household income of $44,700 or less. More than 370 CHIP enrollees received orthodontic care in 2011.
The Utah Department of Health doesn't have data showing how much was spent. But the plan has a lifetime limit on orthodontic care of $1,000, and braces alone can cost several thousand dollars, which means families either cut treatment short or came up with the rest of the money.
Orthodontic care has only been available for two years, and there may have been pent-up demand for the service, said a health spokeswoman Kolbi Young, who expects claims to drop off.