Dentists urge next state budget to address crisis in adult Medicaid

Michigan dentists are pressing the state legislature and governor to address the crisis affecting Medicaid patients in ongoing budget negotiations.

People who rely on Medicaid for dental care often have poor oral health because of lack of access to a dentist and the plan’s limited coverage, they said.

“Medicaid pays about 20 to 25 percent of standard private practice rates,” says Dr. Michael Campeau, a dentist in Fremont, Michigan. “And those rates haven’t increased in nearly 30 years.”

Poor reimbursement means many dentists don’t accept patients with Medicaid coverage, he said. Additionally, Medicaid does not cover many services, including treatment for gum disease.

One of Campeau’s current patients has had both problems, and the results have been terrible, he said. First, she had to have all her teeth pulled because she couldn’t get preventative care for gum disease.

Then, her dentist died suddenly, before she could get her dentures fitted. It took her several months to find a dentist (Campeau) who would accept her as a patient.

“Because of this, she had to go to Toothless for a lot longer than she should have,” he said. “This has resulted in months of undernutrition, social embarrassment and limited employment prospects.”

It is estimated that more than 1.5 million Michiganders do not have access to adequate dental care.

“This budget cycle is the opportunity Michigan has been waiting for to invest in residents’ health and ensure equitable access to all Medicaid dental populations,” said Ellen Sugrue-Hyman, executive director of the Michigan Oral Health Alliance. “A list of individuals who are seeking dental care but cannot find a provider. Thousands have been added and this problem will continue to get worse. Now is the time to fix it.”

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