Medicaid Coverage Puts Emergency Dental Appointments Out of Reach for Many Kids

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Appointment Rates for Medicaid Recipients Fall Far Short of Those for The Privately Insured

The research assistants posing as mothers obtained appointments for 95.4 percent of the Blue Cross-insured youngsters, but only 36.5 percent of those in Medicaid/CHIP. Only 7 percent of Medicaid/CHIP covered children got onto the calendars of non-Medicaid dentists, even though Illinois reimburses non-Medicaid providers who tend to Medicaid enrollees on an emergency basis.

Put another way, children with Medicaid benefits were 18 times more likely to be denied an appointment with a Medicaid provider than children with Blue Cross coverage. A child with Medicaid was 38 times likelier to be denied an appointment with a non-Medicaid dentist.

When callers couldn't get Medicaid-covered kids into Medicaid dentists, they then asked nine of those dental practices about paying cash. All agreed to schedule appointments for cash payments ranging from $30 to $205. Of non-Medicaid dental practices that at first said they couldn't accomodate Medicaid kids, 88.6 percent were willing to fit them in if their parents paid cash.

Calling this practice "concerning," the study authors said dentists enrolled in Illinois' Medicaid program are prohibited from collecting cash from Medicaid/CHIP patients. "This signals a need for increased monitoring and education of enrolled practices," the study authors wrote.

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