Colorado trying to expand lower income dental access

A study completed in 2011 estimates that forty percent of Colorado's 2.1 million residents lack dental insurance coverage. The study also indicated that those without Colorado dental insurance were twice as likely to skip needed dental care due to cost concerns over the coverage.

According to a study done in 2010 by the Colorado Health Institute only about four out of ten children who have Colorado dental insurance see the dentist regularly. One reason for this could be that even though dental insurance softens the blow to the wallet it still costs money to see the dentist for major services.

Lower-income kids are at the greatest risk for tooth decay and oral health diseases. Getting them to the dentist early and regularly can not only prevent a bunch of pain and suffering it also can save the state millions of dollars in care at emergency rooms plus the loss of overall productivity at work and school.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has provisions for covering pediatric dental but finding dentists who will take Medicaid is always a challenge. Twenty of Colorado’s 64 counties don't even have a dentist who accepts Medicaid. Only 10 percent of Colorado’s 3,500 or so dentists are considered significant Medicaid providers, meaning that they are reimbursed for at least 100 visits per year. Most avoid Medicaid because of low reimbursement rates and extensive paperwork to get qualified.

Oral Health Colorado has set several goals for 2017 that focus on Medicaid utilization:

  • Provide a dental home for every child in the state of Colorado
  • Convince parents to take their children to the dentist at least once per year.
  • Dramatically increase the amount of dentist who accepts Medicaid for compensation.
  • At least 65 percent of children on Medicaid would get an annual checkup; the Medicaid provider network would grow 20 percent
  • The proportion of 1-year-olds seeing a dentist for preventive care would grow from 3.4 percent to 6 percent
  • 50 percent of Medicaid-eligible pregnant women would receive oral health care.
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