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Colorado Dentists Pledge to "Take 5" Medicaid Patients

For the first time in Colorado history, adults will qualify for limited dental coverage through the state's Medicaid program this spring.

To show their support of the expanded dental coverage, dentists are taking part in the Colorado Dental Association's Take 5 program, which asks members to provide care for a minimum of five Medicaid patients or their families, according to Molly Pereira, associate executive director of the association. Colorado's dental Medicaid reimbursement rate is less than half of the commercial rate, according to the ADA Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC).

"It's a way for us to ensure that these newly covered adults actually get the care they need and deserve," she said.

Nearly 300,000 Colorado adults will qualify for limited dental coverage when the legislation takes effect in April, and the benefit will be fully implemented this summer. Adults will have access to preventive care, as well as treatment for dental issues such as cavities and gum disease.

The state is currently developing rules for patients and providers, but Medicaid is expected to cover as much as $1,000 per patient in necessary dental care.

"The state is contracting with a third party to administer the program, which is great because I think there are a lot of perceived barriers to Medicaid among the dental community," she said. "When a third party comes in, this benefit will be run a little bit more like a private insurance plan."

So far, about 200 dentists have pledged to participate, Ms. Pereira said. The Colorado Dental Association has an online pledge form and is keeping a database of interested dentists so they can provide them with information about best practices in providing care to Medicaid patients.

"We certainly want to make sure dentists are aware of the advantages to the Take 5 program," Ms. Pereira said. "It's likely that many dentists are already seeing uninsured adults pro bono. The new coverage will make it possible for them to dramatically increase the amount of care they provide to this population in a more financially sustainable manner."