Fund dental Medicaid program
Iowa’s dental Medicaid program relies on private dental practices like mine to deliver quality dental care to Medicaid patients, and I am honored to give back to the community that has given so much to me. As a pediatric dentist in Marshalltown, 40 percent of my patients are children on Medicaid. Unfortunately, I’m at a point where I can no longer take additional Medicaid patients.
While I would love to be able to provide dental care to all children in our area, Iowa’s current dental Medicaid program reimburses only 30 to 40 cents for every dollar of care I provide. I completed my pediatric residency at the University of Iowa in 2002. Since then, there has not been a rate increase in dental Medicaid reimbursements. Meanwhile, dental supply costs have gone up on average three percent every year, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have skyrocketed.
No business can survive when you lose money every time you provide a service, which is why I’ve had to make the difficult decision to limit the number of Medicaid patients I can accept. This issue has impacted many other dentists in our area as well. When Medicaid reimbursements don’t cover overhead costs, dentists have no choice but to reduce the number of Medicaid patients they treat or stop treating Medicaid patients altogether.
Parents who are unable to find a dentist to treat their children on Medicaid often go without care or travel long distances, such as to the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, when they could have visited a dentist locally. It is unfortunate some families must drive so far and miss so much work and school to get the care that they desperately need. I have seen the consequences of what can happen when dental issues are not properly addressed. Without consistent access to care, dental problems will always get worse and become more serious and more costly to treat.
Iowa has a simple choice. We can either continue to underfund the dental Medicaid program, leading to fewer and fewer options for children on Medicaid to seek care, or adequately fund the program to ensure that children of low-income Iowans find a local dental home where their oral health can be maintained. I urge Iowa’s lawmakers to properly fund Iowa’s dental Medicaid program to help ensure Iowans who rely on the program can access these essential services.