The Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) is renewing its Help Minnesota Smile campaign to increase support for raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for dental services in the state. Minnesota currently ranks 49th out of the 50 states for reimbursement rates of children needing dental care, according to the American Dental Association. When adults are added, Minnesota ranks fourth from the bottom in reimbursement.
The public affairs campaign, sponsored by the MDA and local media, is designed to educate citizens and their elected representatives about the financial and health implications of maintaining the status quo regarding the state’s Medicaid policy. Nearly six in 10 children from low-income Minnesota families aren’t receiving the dental care they need, the MDA reports, creating a crisis as dentists stop accepting new patients due to poor reimbursements.
“The system for dental care in our state is working in all areas, except one—Medicaid reimbursement. As dentists, we are committed to providing excellent care to our patients regardless of their ability to pay,” said Kevin Dens, DDS, of Baxter, Minnesota. “We want to continue to do our part, but this is not a sustainable model, and it’s causing an access to dental care crisis in Minnesota.”
It makes good economic sense for Minnesota, its citizens, and its dentists to invest more appropriately in dental Medicaid funding, said MDA executive director Carmelo Cinqueonce, MBA. Closing the funding gap would cost about $50 million to $60 million per year over two years, which is less than three tenths of 1% of the budget.
“The cost to the state in dental-related emergency room visits alone makes up nearly all of that investment,” said Cinqueonce.
Over the past 10 years, the MDA said, the trends have gotten worse. In 2010, the number of children on Medicaid receiving dental care at least once per year was 44%. By 2015, that number had dropped to 41% and is still declining.
“Minnesotans expect more from their healthcare system. The dentists of Minnesota expect more. And, quite frankly, my experience is that many of our legislative policy makers expect more,” said Cinqueonce. “We are relaunching this campaign because we firmly believe that education is the key. As the problem is spotlighted, we have every confidence that the people of Minnesota and policymakers will act and our quality of life as it related to dental care will improve for everyone.”
An increase in Medicaid reimbursement for dental care provides the clearest path to improving utilization for the most vulnerable populations in the state, the MDA said. States that have committed to a payment model that moves Medicaid reimbursement in line with commercial insurance rates coupled with administrative simplification have all but closed the gap in access to care between commercial and Medicaid patients, the MDA added.
“It’s more than just about a nice smile,” Cinqueonce said. “All Minnesotans deserve access to quality healthcare, and that includes dental care. This is about giving all of us a reason to smile.”