Strengthening the Dental Safety Net
Strengthen and expand the public/private safety net to provide more care to more Americans
• Help provide more care to people by having private-practice dentists contract with Federally Qualified Health Centers. By partnering or contracting with community health centers (PDF), private dentists are able to help these safety net facilities expand their capacity to provide care to underserved populations (primarily children on Medicaid), without increasing the clinics' "bricks and mortar" expenses and staffing overhead. Patients benefit because quality care can be quickly and efficiently delivered, alleviating much of the backlog experienced by many health center dental programs. Access to dental specialty services can also be increased. Contracting with the health centers allows private dentists to work with underserved populations without having to contend with many of the administrative headaches of the Medicaid program.
• Fight for increased dental health protections and simplified administration under Medicaid (PDF). This proven solution has dramatically improved access to care in some states. A combination of fee increases and administrative reforms in Connecticut's Medicaid program in 2008 increased the number of participating dentists from fewer than 200 to more than 1,200. As a result, nearly 70 percent of enrolled children had at least one dental visit per year, a rate higher than that for privately insured children and dramatically higher than the 15 percent who saw a dentist prior to the state's Medicaid reforms. But most Medicaid programs remain inadequate for children, while comprehensive coverage for adults is all but nonexistent in most states. Expanding Medicaid coverage and improving the system means more dentists providing more care to more people in need.