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Wednesday - November 29, 2017 6:39 pm

Proposal could help solve critical dental care shortage for Wisconsin Medicaid patients

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Plan seems to be working well in four counties already 

A critical dental care shortage around Wisconsin may ease in the near future.

A bill in Madison would expand a pilot program statewide that added more funding to reimburse costs for dentists who provide care to Medicaid patients.

A lack of funding has meant very few dentists taking any medicaid patients at all.

"There's not a part of the state where this isn't a problem," Patrick Tepe, president-elect of the Wisconsin Dental Association, said.

But don't blame the dentists, Tepe added.

"They're small business people," he said. "They have an average overhead (of 71 percent).

"So, if reimbursement rates for Medicaid are 30 to 50 percent, what does that mean? That means that (dentists are) not only taking home nothing, (they're) actually losing money."

The dental care shortage is made worse by a state law that prohibits dentists from accepting cash from those patients covered by Medicaid.

Tepe believes the plan should work. It has worked.

"In states that have done this, this problem has generally gone away," he said. "And that's really going to be the true ultimate solution to that.

"We're in favor of expanding this any which way it could to any county because I'm sure there's not a county in the state that wouldn't benefit from this."

A one year pilot program has increased funding in four Wisconsin counties. Something that has apparently greatly increased the number of Medicaid dental patients receiving care.

A full study has yet to be done on that pilot program but there are signs it's working.

Last modified on Wednesday - November 29, 2017 6:49 pm
Mitch Reynolds

Mitch Reynolds is the News Director at Midwest Family Broadcasting. He covers the internecine agonies of La Crosse city hall. He really likes basketball.

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