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Some Dentists Reluctant to Treat Kids on Medicaid: Study
Date:5/23/2011

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Undercover research in Illinois reveals that dentists are far more willing to provide emergency care to children with private insurance than to kids with public insurance such as Medicaid.

Posing as mothers of a fictional 10-year-old boy with a fractured front tooth, six research assistants phoned 85 dental practices twice, four weeks apart, to determine the impact of insurance status on the practices' decision to schedule an urgent dental appointment.

Even when calling Medicaid-enrolled dentists, just 68 percent of children with the Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Plan were able to get an appointment, compared to all of the privately insured children. Non-enrolled dentists offered an appointment to only 7 percent of kids with public insurance despite the fact that Medicaid reimburses all emergency dental care.

"That's a huge difference," said study co-author Dr. Karin Rhodes, director of the division of emergency care policy research at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice. "This gives irrefutable numbers. I think there's a real disparity between oral health and traditional medical care in this country."

The study was published online May 23 in the journal Pediatrics.

A fractured front tooth is an urgent, common childhood injury with long-term implications, Rhodes said, including infection, pain and cosmetic problems. Traumatic injuries to permanent front teeth affect one in seven pre-teen children, but more than 10 percent of significant dental fractures go untreated, according to the study.

Nearly half of the randomly selected dental practices called by the researchers were enrolled in Illinois' combined Medicaid/CHIP dental program. In 170 paired calls to both types of practices, a total of 36.5 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries obtained an appointment, compared w
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