Dentist participation in Medicaid has been a persistent problem, with fewer than one in four dentists nationwide seeing more than a handful of Medicaid patients in any given year. The most common reason dentists give for their low participation is inadequate reimbursement for the cost of treating Medicaid beneficiaries.
Beginning in the late 1990s, several states greatly increased Medicaid rates for dentists, while also overhauling administrative processes and working to forge stronger ties with dental practitioners and other stakeholders in the field. This issue brief examines the results of those reforms and whether the efforts at better administration and outreach mattered as much as the rate increases in improving access to Medicaid dental care. Those findings are also compared with information on provider rates and participation in California.
The research indicates that while increases in provider payments were necessary to the success of the states’ reform efforts, they were not sufficient to produce substantial gains in either dentist participation or patients’ access to care. The authors conclude that in addition to raising reimbursement rates, Medicaid agencies must also revamp their administrative procedures and build partnerships with dental societies.
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