MINNEAPOLIS, MNThe Minnesota Dental Association is calling on legislators to address oral health priorities in special session. Current dental provider reimbursement rates in Minnesota’s Medicaid program are based off average submitted charges from 1989. The 32-year-old rates are inadequate and, for many dentists, can mean the difference in program participation. Minnesotans need access to care and we simply cannot wait another year to invest in a neglected system.

The outdated rates and lack of state investment has resulted in Minnesota having some of the lowest reimbursement rates in the country. The impact of low reimbursement rates has been detrimental for children and adults on Medicaid. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, more than 60% of children on the state Medicaid program did not see a dentist in 2016 or 2017 (DHS).

Throughout the 2021 legislative session, members of the House and Senate Health and Human Services committees acknowledged the low reimbursement rates for dental providers and the impact it has had on access to care in Minnesota.

“I’d like to see more Medicaid patients in my community and provide them with the dental care they require but the current system makes it difficult to meet those needs. The problem is critical and during the time the state delays finding a real solution to this problem, patients continue to receive less dental care. Not addressing this immediately means we will be scrambling to mitigate the oral health needs of the unseen patients for years to come,” said Minnesota Dental Association President-elect Dr. Amber Cziok.

Instead of going to the dentist, many Minnesotans are seeking care in the emergency room. This is both expensive for the state and results in these patients not getting the dental care that they need. Legislators need to pass real solutions this session that will improve access to care in Minnesota and ensure that state dollars are being used to provide appropriate care.

“We have heard from many of our members who see Medicaid patients.  They have expressed that COVID-19 has put a further financial strain on their clinics and they are having to make difficult decisions when it comes to Medicaid participation. It’s time for Minnesota to properly address the woefully underfunded dental Medicaid program so patients can get the care they deserve and need,” said Minnesota Dental Association Executive Director Carmelo Cinqueonce.

Two proposals included in the House version of the Health and Human Services Omnibus bill will address both the complexity of the system and the reimbursement rates. These proposals are desperately needed and could result in higher provider participation so more patients can be treated by a provider in their community. The first proposal would finally update the state Medicaid rates and reset them from 1989 to 2018, a more contemporary base.  The second proposal would shift the management of the dental program to a single entity providing a greater level of transparency and administrative simplification. The Minnesota Dental Association has been advocating for both proposals critical to helping more Minnesotans smile.

The Minnesota Dental Association is the voice of dentistry in Minnesota, representing practicing dentists. It is committed to the highest standards of oral health and access to care for all Minnesotans. You can learn more at www.mndental.org.