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Pennsylvania Dental Association Offers Solutions for Improving Access to Care

Posted on June 22, 2012

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 21, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Fewer people today are scheduling dental visits since 2007 because of the challenging economy, changes to private dental insurance plans and reductions in public funding for dental programs, according to a new report released by the American Dental Association (ADA). In response to the report, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is calling for a set of comprehensive solutions to increase access to dental care for all Pennsylvania residents.

"For someone who loses his or her job, postponing or avoiding dental care in an effort to save money may seem tempting," said Dr. Bernie Dishler, PDA president. "As a result, dentists are seeing increased cases of oral diseases and related complications. The lack of dental care can seriously damage an individual's or family's overall health."

The ADA recently released a report titled Breaking Down Barriers to Oral Health for All Americans: The Role of Finance. The report noted that fewer Americans have private insurance as a result of unemployment and a steady reduction in the percentage of firms providing health benefits. Those employers who do provide dental coverage are increasingly asking employees to share a greater percentage of the cost of dental insurances or reducing the scope of coverage.

State governments facing significant fiscal challenges are cutting public programs such as Medicaid. Twenty states cut Medicaid funding for dental services in FY 2010 and FY 2011. Other Medicaid programs are eliminating benefits not required by federal law, such as adult dental coverage.

State governments facing significant fiscal challenges are cutting public programs such as Medicaid. Twenty states cut Medicaid funding for dental services in FY 2010 and FY 2011. Other Medicaid programs are eliminating benefits not required by federal law, such as adult dental coverage.

Cutting public funding reduces access to oral care. The ADA report notes that a sharp decrease in Medicaid funding in Georgia in 2006 led to 1,500 fewer dentists providing care. Conversely, increasing public funding has a positive and measurable impact. A 2009 increase in Medicaid funding in Connecticut increased the number of dentists providing care from 150 to 1,359.

Following are PDA's suggestions for providing care to patients while managing the growing cost of dental care:

Focus on preventive care: In order to keep costs low and provide more people with access to preventive care, dental plans should cover 100 percent of preventive costs. The preventive care early on will help reduce the need for more extensive treatment down the road.

Helping those in need: State health exchanges should provide fairly priced dental coverage to the underserved, especially the elderly.

Using Tax Policy: A tax policy would encourage the purchase of private dental plans and development of cooperative purchasing alliances.

Medicaid & CHIP reimbursements: Medicaid and CHIP should reimburse dentists at appropriate rates that cover a larger portion of operating costs, thereby helping to increase the number of participating dentists.

Establishing maximum plan benefits: These benefits would be set in an open manner with proper direction from attorneys general, insurance commissioners and providers.

State Medicaid Reform: Medicaid programs should be broadened to provide comprehensive preventive and urgent care services coverage for adults.

State Administrative reforms: States should implement reforms such as "carving out" the dental portion of Medicaid and assigning specific health department staff to run the dental portions of their CHIP and Medicaid programs.

Government-based incentives: The government and state governments should provide incentives for dentists to establish more practices in underserved areas.

For more information or to read the complete ADA report, visit: http://www.ada.org/sections/advocacy/pdfs/7170_Breaking_Down_Barriers_Role_of_Finance-FINAL4-26-12.pdf

About the Pennsylvania Dental Association

Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA's mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. For more information on PDA, visit our website at www.padental.org .

SOURCE Pennsylvania Dental Association