Low reimbursements, shortages keeping Wisconsin dentists away from Medicaid: 8 notes

Low reimbursements and workforce shortages are preventing more dentists in Wisconsin from treating Medicaid patients, Wisconsin Public Radio reported April 23. 

Eight notes: 

1. Twenty-nine percent of licensed dentists in the state indicated in a 2018 survey that they served patients with public insurance.

2. Many providers have chosen not to treat patients with public insurance because of the historically low reimbursement rates. 

3. Wisconsin Dental Association President Chris Hansen, DDS, told WPR that dentists were previously being reimbursed for 30 percent or less of what they charge for services just a few years ago.

4. Despite the state increasing Medicaid dental reimbursements by 40% in its last state budget, the number of dentists accepting Medicaid has not dramatically increased.

4. Dr. Hansen added that although the rate increases were a good start, they are still not enough, saying that many dentists are forced to "take a loss" in order to treat patients with public insurance.

5. A 2022 report from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services concluded that reimbursement increases alone were not enough to improve access to dental services in the state.

6. The state is also facing a shortage of dental care professionals as retirement among dentists has increased in recent years and the number of dental hygienists has declined. 

7. Thirty-two of the state’s 72 counties are considered dental health professional shortage areas, with an estimated 275 full-time dentists needed to alleviate these shortage areas.

8. Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill package aimed at improving the state's dental workforce in January. The bills included additional funding for training programs and the authorization of dental therapists in the state.

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