Minnesota dentists initiate campaign to raise low Medicaid reimbursement

June 12, 2018
Dentists who are members of the Minnesota Dental Association announced a renewed campaign to grow support for raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for dental services in Minnesota.

The Minnesota Dental Association announced a renewed campaign to grow support for raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for dental services in Minnesota. The state currently ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the nation for reimbursement rates of children needing dental care, according to a study released by the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association.

The public affairs campaign, which is sponsored by the Minnesota Dental Association along with local media throughout the state, is designed to educate residents and elected representatives about the “financial and health implications of maintaining the status quo regarding the state's Medicaid policy.”

The state dental association reported that nearly six in 10 children from low-income Minnesota families are not receiving appropriate dental care. The state’s dentists “agree” that the situation is creating a dental “access to care crisis of extraordinary proportions,” according to a press release from the association.

Dr. Kevin Dens, a dentist from Baxter, Minn., said, "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."

Dentists are reporting that the low reimbursement rates are forcing many dentists to make tough decisions on accepting new patients. "We want to continue to do our part," Dens said, "but this is not a sustainable model, and it's causing an access to dental care crisis in Minnesota."

Minnesota Dental Association Executive Director Carmelo Cinqueonce said raising the rates “makes good economic sense for Minnesota, its citizens, and its dentists to invest more appropriately” in dental Medicaid funding. The state dental association estimated reducing the funding gap would cost approximately $50-60 million dollars per year over the two-year biennium.

"The cost to the state in dental-related emergency room visits alone makes up nearly all of that investment," Cinqueonce said.

In 2010, the number of children on Medicaid receiving dental care at least once per year was at 44%. By 2015, the percentage dropped to 41%, and it is still declining, according to MDA.

Cinqueonce added, "Minnesotans expect more from their health care system. The dentists of Minnesota expect more. And, quite frankly, my experience is that many of our legislative policy makers expect more. We are re-launching 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 relates to dental care will improve for everyone."

The state dental association points to studies showing that 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 patients and Medicaid patients.”

"It's more than just about a nice smile," Cinqueonce said. "All Minnesotans deserve access to quality health care and that includes dental care. This is about giving all of us a reason to smile."

The Minnesota Dental Association is a statewide professional membership organization representing dentists and dental student with a membership exceeding 3,000. For more information or to pledge support, go to helpmnsmile.org.