Serving Medicaid Dental Patients | VideoMichelle San Miguel | 7/26/2012
Like any medical provider, dentists are in the business of serving others. Take Dr. Bradley King, he`s been seeing Medicaid patients since he began practicing 30 years ago.
"Medicaid isn`t what it used to be. Medicaid on the dental side has changed significantly from what it was 30 years ago," he said.
For starters, King says the patients he treats aren`t as healthy as they used to be. And while he`d like to see more Medicaid patients, he says he has to put a limit on it for financial reasons. One of the biggest obstacles dentists face is the reimbursement they receive from the state for services done on Medicaid patients.
"Sometimes it`s as low as 30 percent of what we would normally charge, up to maybe 60 to 70 percent of what we would normally charge."
King says dentists have a typical overhead of 60 percent. So if he`s not getting paid at least that, he`s losing money.
Maggie Anderson, the state`s medical services director, says the state has made strides to improve the reimbursement rate.
"The legislature also has provided some increases certainly they`ve done across the board inflationary increases for all providers. In addition to that they`ve provided some specific increases to dentists during the 2007 as well as the 2009 legislative assemblies."
More dental providers in North Dakota are billing Medicaid. In 2011, 236 dentists billed Medicaid for services compared to 185 dentists in 2010. While the number of dentists did go up in that time, the state`s dental board says it`s also been encouraging more dentists to treat Medicaid patients.
Some dental procedures done on Medicaid patients need to be approved by the state, like making new dentures or putting in a crown. In some cases patients are left waiting weeks, even more than a month to get these procedures done.
"We always encourage providers again whether they be dentists or other providers that if there`s an urgent need and care would be compromised by not acting at that time they should act and we will assist them in doing the paperwork," Anderson said.
"What the normal person would expect as getting dental procedure done isn`t what the people on Medicaid receive. They receive a much lower level of care," King said.
If the state decides to expand the Medicaid program, even more people could seek out dental services.
King says the Medicaid patients he sees often live in nursing or group homes.