Why so few Virginia dentists accept Medicaid

Most Virginia dentists do not treat Medicaid enrollees, making it difficult for those with state-funded coverage to get care, Virginia Mercury reported March 17.

Virginia Medicaid enrollees ages 21 and older were granted access to comprehensive dental benefits Jan. 1, 2021. However, 73 percent of Virginia's dentists did not treat any Medicaid or Family Access to Medical Insurance patients in 2022, according to a report from the state's Department of Medical Assistance Services.

Justin Gist, a dental program manager for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, told Virginia Mercury that shortage of dentists who accept adults on Medicaid is the primary reason why Medicaid enrollees have a hard time finding care.

Cynthia Southern, DDS, president of the Virginia Dental Association, has been in practice for 23 years and primarily treats patients on Medicaid.

"My office, we get over 200 calls a week. That's since [the dental benefit expansion] started – it has not ceased," Dr. Southern, told Virginia Mercury. "There is an absolute need out there."

Some reasons for the shortage of dentists who accept Medicaid include low state reimbursement rate, lack of awareness among enrollees and providers of the new benefits and challenges with treating adults, according to Virginia Mercury.

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