Missouri takes steps to improve dental care accessibility

Dentist or dental Office (Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli on Unsplash)

More Missourians should now be able to access routine dental care due to a recent change in the way providers are compensated by the state.

MO HealthNet is offering higher rates to providers who treat patients under the state’s version of Medicaid. This change is expected to motivate more providers to accept MO HealthNet patients.

Gary Harbison, the executive director of the Missouri Coalition for Oral Health, believes this is a significant shift. Many individuals might delay addressing dental health concerns due to financial constraints. However, Harbison emphasizes that these concerns are far from trivial.

“When untreated conditions persist, individuals often find themselves in emergency rooms,” Harbison stated. “In some cases, they might be hospitalized, and in extreme situations, some might even succumb to untreated dental conditions.”

Harbison also highlighted the economic implications of oral care access. Adults can function more efficiently at work without the distraction of dental pain. Moreover, children who are pain-free are more prepared to engage in school activities. Shockingly, it’s estimated that four out of 10 children eligible for Medicaid coverage do not receive dental care.

Jessica Emmerich, the dental medical facilitator for the coalition, mentioned that those residing in rural areas would benefit the most from this change. They should now have the option to consult private-practice dentists, as long as these dentists are willing to accept MO HealthNet patients.

“This change enables MO HealthNet and the managed-care plans to offer payments that are competitive, if not superior, to other insurance plans,” Emmerich said. “I strongly urge dental providers to consider enrolling with MO HealthNet and Missouri Medicaid.”

A significant portion of Missouri lacks an adequate number of dentists. The pandemic further exacerbated this issue by reducing the overall workforce. Many dental practices remain understaffed, with some even declining new patients. Emmerich believes that the enhanced rates will alleviate some of these economic challenges.

(Photo by Benyamin Bohlouli on Unsplash)