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Dental Care for Kids on Medicaid Varies by Fees Each State Sets
Date:7/13/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- Low reimbursements to dentists from Medicaid make getting dental care difficult for children and adolescents covered by the government health plan, new research suggests.

Sandra L. Decker, senior service fellow in the division of health care statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that in states with the highest Medicaid payments, children were more likely to get dental care, although they received care less often than children with private insurance.

"This may be partly because a lot of dentists don't participate in the Medicaid program, so they don't treat children with Medicaid," Decker said.

"In a lot of states, Medicaid dental fees are very low, so a dentist doesn't want to treat a Medicaid patient," she said. "So, low fees affect whether children on Medicaid get care."

The good news is that in states that raised their Medicaid reimbursements more children were able to find dental care, Decker said. "Some of those children were receiving dental care at the same rate as privately insured children," she noted.

But this progress may be in danger as states look for ways to cut costs. At a time when state budgets are being slashed, it is likely that reimbursements for dental care won't go up and may even be reduced, she added.

The report was published in the July 13 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Judy Schaechter, associate chair of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that "the relationship between type of insurance and visiting a dentist is well established."

But, "what this paper adds is that it reveals the direct relationship between Medicaid fee and provision of care," she said.

The reasons connecting fees to access are many, Schaechter said. "Among them are that fewer dentists will accept the
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