Washington county residents delay dental visits: 4 things to know

Residents in Cowlitz County, Wash., have delayed making dental appointments because of COVID-19, confusion surrounding coverage and difficulties finding a Medicaid-covered provider, The Daily News reported July 18.

Although COVID-19 is one factor, the number of people who received dental care was low in years preceding the start of the pandemic.

Here are four things to know:

  1. According to the Washington State Health Care Authority, more than half of state residents on Medicaid didn't use their dental benefits even before the pandemic. Only 38.8 percent of state Medicaid recipients received dental care in 2018. In Cowlitz County, 24 percent of Medicaid recipients 21 and older received dental care in 2018.
  2. Among people 20 and younger, about 56 percent of state residents on Medicaid received dental care in 2018. In Cowlitz County, 61 percent of Medicaid-eligible children 5 and younger accessed dental care, compared to approximately 54 percent statewide.
  3. Dentists and oral healthcare programs say people don't know they have coverage or can't find a provider that takes Medicaid.
  4. According to the state healthcare authority, only 11 Cowlitz County dental providers serving those 20 and younger have billed Medicaid claims so far this year. That number is down from 12 last year and 13 in 2019. Only 11 providers serving patients 21 and older billed Medicaid in 2019, up from 10 in 2020.

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