Higher fees to dentists equals more care for kids
Children in states that offer dentists higher Medicaid payments are more likely to receive dental care, according to a new study.
The study found children who had private insurance got the most care, but more than a third of children are covered by public health insurance, such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Dental care is required but states can choose the payments to dentists and the rates vary greatly.
Sandra Decker at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a look at the payments and care from 2000-2008 and merged the information with data from a CDC questionaire called the National Health Interview Survey.
Many states dropped fees over the time period. Five states increased it – Maryland has increased its payments, but not in the time studied for this report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The state now leads the nation in insuring the dental needs of kids, according to the Pew Charitable Trust. The state took action on the payments as part of a plan developed by the Maryland Dental Action Coalition after the death of Deamonte Driver, a Prince George’s child who died from an infected tooth.
The number of low-income kids who received dental services increased from about 11 percent in 2000 to about 42 percent in 2009.
But the problem remains across the country. Decker said those in public plans were about 13 percentage points less likely to have seen a dentist than those with private insurance. Those with no insurance were 40 percent less likely to have seen a dentist than those with private insurance.
“Changes in state Medicaid dental payment fees between 2000 and 2008 were positively associated with use of dental care among children and adolescents covered by Medicaid,” she wrote. “For example, a $10 increase in the Medicaid prophylaxis payment level [from $20 to $30] was associated with a 3.92 percentage point increase in the chance that a child or adolescent covered by Medicaid had seen a dentist.”