Alabama Medicaid Boosts Dental Payments, Attracting More Dentists to the Program
Two months after Alabama raised Medicaid reimbursements for dental services, 25 additional dentists have begun participating in the program, AP/Alabama Live reports. The rate boost, followed by a letter from Gov. Don Siegelman (D) encouraging all licensed dentists to accept Medicaid patients, is part of a "statewide effort to provide dental coverage to more children covered by Medicaid." While about 350,000 Alabama children are enrolled in Medicaid, only about 75,000 of them visited a dentist last year. In addition, only about 19% of the state's 1,800 dentists treated Medicaid patients in 1999. Wayne McMahan, executive director of the Alabama Dental Association, said, "The fee schedule that was being offered until recently did not even allow a dentist to recoup his actual cost." McMahan added, "Things were so bad there were dentists that saw Medicaid patients that didn't bother to file claims." Besides cost, state dentists also had complained about Medicaid's "demanding filing process" and "unruly" Medicaid patients who sometimes did not keep appointments. In response, the Alabama Medicaid Agency is offering free software that will allow claims to be processed within eight days. Also, the agency is using case managers to remind patients to keep appointments and provide transportation if necessary. The new fee schedule alone is expected to cost the state $18 million next year, a $6 million increase from this year (AP/Alabama Live, 11/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.