Insurance status affects access to dental appointments

A study using research assistants who posed as mothers of a 10-year-old boy with a fractured front tooth seeking an urgent dental appointment measured dentists’ willingness to provide treatment to children with Medicaid/CHIP versus private insurance.

This study shows US dentists prefer private health insurance rather public health insurance patients.

The study, “Disparities in Child Access to Emergency Care for Acute Oral Injury,” in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online May 23) found that even when calling Medicaid-enrolled dentists, only 68 percent of children with Medicaid/CHIP were able to obtain an appointment compared to 100 percent of privately-insured children with the same injury.

Non-enrolled dentists only gave an appointment to 7 percent of children with public insurance, even though the Medicaid program reimburses all emergency dental care.

The authors state that these findings have implications for changes in oral health policy and Medicaid/CHIP financing, as well as dental education, and payment strategies. Finding dental providers willing to accept public insurance and serve children from low-income families is a first vital step toward improving oral health for children.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, USA



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