DETROIT (WWJ) – A new study has found that dentists were less willing to see children on Medicaid.
While the study was centered in and around Chicago, researchers said they expect the same is true elsewhere across the nation.
Over the span of four months, six research assistants posed as mothers of a 10-year-old boy seeking an urgent dental appointment.
Two calls four weeks apart, with the same clinical scenario, were made by the same caller to a random sample of dental practices. The only difference in the calls was the child’s insurance coverage – Medicaid versus private Blue Cross dental coverage.
The study’s co-author Dr. Karin Rhodes, who is director of the division of emergency care policy research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, said most dentists not enrolled as a participating provided of Medicaid refused to treat the children unless they had private insurance.
“When they called an un-enrolled provider, they could only get in seven percent of the time. And this is a dental emergency that needs to be seen right away,” Rhodes said.
Of 170 paired calls to 85 dental practices, only 36.5% of Medicaid beneficiaries obtained and appointment compared with 95.4% of Blue Cross insured children with the same injury.
Among dental providers enrolled in the Medicaid program, children with Medicaid were still 18.2 times more likely to be denied an appointment than privately insured counterparts.
Rhodes believes several dentists may shy away from emergency care because they have to follow-up with the patient, even though they may not be reimbursed.
Previous research has shown that language and education barriers also prevented low-income families from receiving dental care, particularly among minorities.