Missouri’s thin dental safety net stretched amid Medicaid expansion

missouris thin dental safety net stretched amid medicaid expansion

Sumary of Missouri’s thin dental safety net stretched amid Medicaid expansion:

  • At the Access Family Care clinics in southwestern Missouri, the next available nonemergency dental appointment is next summer.
  • Roughly 275,000 Missourians are newly eligible this year for Medicaid, the federal-state public health insurance program for people with low incomes, and they can be covered for dental care, too.
  • Missouri voters approved expansion of the program in 2020, the latest of 39 states to do so as part of the Affordable Care Act, but politics delayed its implementation until Oct.
  • But one big question remains: Who will treat these newly insured dental patients?
  • Only 27% of dentists in Missouri accept Medicaid, according to state data, one of the lowest rates in the country.
  • Many of them work at what are known as safety-net clinics, such as Access Family Care, Northwest Health Services and CareSTL Health.
  • Such clinics receive federal funds to serve uninsured patients on a sliding scale and was experiencing huge demand for dental services before expansion.
  • The reason so few Missouri dentists accept Medicaid is simple, according to Vicki Wilbers, executive director of the Missouri Dental Association: The state’s program pays dentists extremely poorly compared with private insurance or what a dentist could charge a patient paying cash.

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