The Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) is calling on state legislators to address oral health priorities in special session, as current dental provider reimbursement rates in the state’s Medicaid program are based off average submitted charges from 1989.
These 32-year-old rates are inadequate and, for many dentists, can mean the difference in program participation, the MDA said. Minnesotans need access to care, the MDA continued, and the state can’t wait another year to invest in a neglected system.
The outdated rates and lack of state investment have resulted in Minnesota having some of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country, the MDA said, with a detrimental impact for children and adults on Medicaid.
According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, more than 60% of children on the state Medicaid program did not see a dentist in 2016 or 2017.
Through the 2021 legislative session, members of the state’s House and Senate Health and Human Services committees acknowledged the low reimbursement rates for dental providers and the impact it has had on access to care in Minnesota, the MDA said.
“I’d like to see more Medicaid patients in my community and provide them with the dental care they require, but the current system makes it difficult to meet those needs,” said MDA president-elect Dr. Amber Cziok.
“The problem is critical and during the time the state delays finding a real solution to this problem, patients continue to receive less care. Not addressing this immediately means we will be scrambling to mitigate the oral health needs of the unseen patients for years to come,” she said.
Many residents are seeking care in the emergency room instead of going to the dentist, the MDA said, which is expensive for the state and results in these patients not getting the dental care they need.
Legislators need to pass real solutions in this session that will improve access to care in Minnesota and ensure that state dollars are being used to provide appropriate care, the MDA said.
“We have heard from many of our members who see Medicaid patients. They have expressed that COVID-19 has put a further financial strain on their clinics, and they are having to make difficult decisions when it comes to Medicaid participation,” said MDA executive director Carmelo Cinqueonce.
“It’s time for Minnesota to properly address the woefully underfunded dental Medicaid program so patients can get the care they deserve and need,” Cinqueonce said.
Two proposals included in the House version of the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill will address the complexity of the system and the reimbursement rates, the MDA said. These proposals are desperately needed, the MDA continued, and could result in higher provider participation so more patients can be treated by a provider in their community.
The first proposal would update the state Medicaid rates and reset them from 1989 to 2018. The second would shift management of the dental program to a single entity for greater transparency and administrative simplification, the MDA said.
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