Dentists in Cook County, IL, were more likely to provide emergency treatment to children who had private insurance than to those on Medicaid, even if the dentists were enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, according to a new study. Medicaid typically pays less than private insurance plans, and experts say there’s “little market motivation” for practitioners to take on those patients, rather than just going with those who have private insurance.
Reuters Health brushed up on the study:
In the current study, University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Karin Rhodes and colleagues trained six women to pretend to be the mother of a 10-year old boy who had just broke his front tooth — an injury that requires urgent care, the authors note.
Those women made two calls to 85 different dental practices in the county, about four weeks apart, with the same story. The only difference was that one time the women told dental offices they were covered by Medicaid, and in the other call, they said the family had private Blue Cross insurance….
In total, dentists’ offices told almost two-thirds of mothers with Medicaid that their son couldn’t get an appointment, compared to less than 5 percent of those with Blue Cross insurance.
Experts contacted by Reuters said that, the combination of lower payments and cumbersome administrative requirements make Medicaid a less attractive option for many dentists. “Often state Medicaid programs are very cumbersome,” said Tegwyn Brickhouse of Virginia Commonwealth University. “It’s very complex in terms of just being able to treat the patient and file the claim.”