Dentists work to increase Medicaid dental reimbursements

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Many dentists are currently turning away Medicaid patients because the reimbursement rate is so low that providers are losing money accepting these appointments.

DENVER — Dentists say Medicaid patients could be waiting months for simple procedures because providers are turning down appointments over reimbursement amounts. Dentists say they are reimbursed 45% of the cost of the procedure, which does not break even on their end.

As a result, patients can wait months for procedures that would otherwise be booked immediately under private insurance plans. Now dentists across the state are working together to put Initiative 82 on the ballot.

“You might have an abscessed tooth and a toothache and pain. You have to wait three, four months before you can do a root canal. So it’s frustrating for these patients to try to get their treatment done on time. “said Dr. Christopher Morris, who practices in Littleton.

Reimbursement for dentists is lower than reimbursement for doctors, which is 75%. Dentists like Dr. Morris say the reimbursement gap between the medical and dental fields is not fair. Due to low reimbursement, some dentists do not see Medicaid patients at all.

“Medicaid patients who have trouble getting treatment in time may end up going to ERs that don’t really do dental work. They may end up deciding to have a tooth pulled that could have been fixed and saved” , said Dr. Morris.

Initiative 82 would require Colorado rates to go up to 73% of the cost of the procedure to be covered by Medicaid.

The ballot measure requires 125,000 registered Colorado voters to sign it before it goes to the November ballot. The petition can only be signed in person, with many petitioning at dental offices across the state.

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