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Medicaid challenges, strategies examined

Seventeen private practice dentists—one from each ADA district—who logged at least 1,000 Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program patient visits in the last year gathered at the ADA June 23 to identify challenges and successful strategies for improving access for this population group.

The ADA Medicaid Symposium, convened at the direction of a 2007 House of Delegates resolution, gave participating dentists a chance to outline the challenges and barriers they face—other than reimbursement—and to share ideas to enhance access to care for Medicaid patients.

Dr. Thomas Floyd, a West Palm Beach, Fla., pediatric dentist and author of Res. 44H-2007, said the purpose of the symposium was to make sure that ADA leaders heard from people who were most involved in treating this population group as the ADA moves forward in addressing access to care issues.

"The symposium greatly exceeded what I hoped we'd accomplish," said Dr. Floyd. "I'm ecstatic. The meeting provided an excellent forum for discussing issues such as how to get these patients in the dental office before they have an emergency situation. I am also impressed by the support we received from the ADA staff and the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. In regard to access to care, they know it. They've lived it."

Before gathering in Chicago, participants answered a questionnaire to identify the most common barriers they face when treating Medicaid patients. During the symposium, they offered a variety of recommendations, including educating patients to give them a better understanding and appreciation of oral health as a part of overall health; partnering with stakeholders to raise awareness of legislators about the dire needs of this population group; overcoming communication and transportation barriers; recognizing the high disease burden in this population group; and developing continuing dental education that enables dentists to better address the oral health needs of young children.

Findings from the symposium will serve as a resource for the ADA's planned 2009 Access to Dental Care Summit.

"The Medicaid Provider Symposium not only met the charge of the ADA 2007 House of Delegates, it exceeded it!" said Dr. Samuel Low, a member of the ADA Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations. "The opportunity to have 17 private practitioners who deliver Medicaid dentistry brought forth grassroots challenges and moreover solutions. Hats off to this group of general and pediatric dentists who take care of the underserved on a daily basis." CAPIR will prepare a report on the symposium for the HOD meeting in San Antonio Oct. 17-21. For more information, log on to www.ada.org/goto/access.