Dentists are urging Iowa lawmakers to plug an extra 31-and-a-half milion dollars in Iowa’s Medicaid budget to cover dental care. Laurie Traetow, executive director of the Iowa Dental Association, says for the past 20 years, there’s been no change in what the state pays dentists who provide care to Iowans covered by Medicaid.
“Dental Medicaid rates in Iowa now only reimburse between 30 cents to 40 cents for each $1 of care provided,” she says. “Due to the ongoing underfunding of the program, Iowa has seen a decrease in dentists taking on new Medicaid patients, which creates access for the children and adults receiving Medicaid dental benefits. These patients are having to travel outside of their communities to receive services and the wait lists for these services can be very lengthy.”
Traetow says dentists are dealing with financial pressures, like rising supply costs and workforce shortages that push wage expectations higher for the staff in dental offices.
“The vast majority of Iowa dentists are small business owners who often provide a certain level of charity care to those in need,” Traetow says. “However, no small business can survive taking a 60-70% loss on the service it provides.”
The Iowa Dental Association is suggesting the dental care reimbursement rate for Medicaid patients rise to the level set in a separate government program that helps working parents acquire private health insurance for their children.
“This increase in rates is long overdue and is critical to the overall health of Iowans,” Traetow says.
The latest state report indicates more than 800,000 Iowans are enrolled in the Medicaid program.