Maine Medicaid patients struggle to find care despite expanded coverage

MaineCare patients are having difficulties finding dentists who accept Medicaid, The Maine Monitor reported Nov. 19.

The state expanded MaineCare coverage to include adult dental care in 2022, but a shortage of providers is leading some patients to face months-long wait lists or traveling long distances for appointments. 

An estimated 70 percent of patients qualify for MaineCare or use a sliding fee, but only 25 percent of general dentists in the state accept MaineCare for routine services, the news organization reported. Fewer dentists accept MaineCare for other dental services, such as root canals and pathology.

Dentists could be avoiding participating in the program because of low reimbursements and credentialing issues. The state previously increased reimbursement rates by 70 percent, but that is still less than what dentists can make with private insurance or by offering fee-for-service care.

To help retain more practitioners, Gov. Janet Mills approved a program that offers student loan repayments to healthcare workers who commit to working in the state for three years starting in 2024. Another initiative connects employers with education programs to get tuition assistance.

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