Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Local agencies in Kentucky plan dental clinic for Medicaid patients, often shunned by dentists

One of the biggest hurdles to improving oral health is that few dentists will take Medicaid recipients as patients, saying reimbursement often fails to cover costs. In Kentucky, which has some of the worst oral health of any state, local agencies are "planning to create a dental clinic for Medicaid recipients and people" in Owensboro, population 54,000, reports James Mayse of the local daily, the Messenger-Inquirer.

The group, which includes officials from the Green River District Health Department, former M-I Publisher Larry Hager's Hager Educational Foundation and former M-I Editor-Publisher John Hager's Owensboro Public Life Foundation, began the process of applying for nonprofit status last week and they hope to open the clinic next year. City and county school districts, the Owensboro Rotary Club, Citizens Health Care Advocates and the Goodfellows Club also have been involved in the effort. Mayes said the group was moved to action when it found about 25 percent of dentists accepted Medicaid patients.

"The clinic will provide basic dental care — such as cleanings, X-rays and extractions — and will refer patients to specialists when needed," Mayse writes. The health department's administrative service director "said many dentists don't accept Medicaid recipients because of the low state reimbursement rate and because patients on Medicaid seem more prone to skipping appointments. People without dental insurance will also be eligible for care. Fees will be assessed on a sliding scale, Mountjoy said."

The initial cost is $190,000, and Mayes reports the clinic has been promised donations from Hager Educational Foundation and the Goodfellows Club. "There's a great need, particularly for children, to see they have access to dental care early," Keith Sanders of the Hager Educational Foundation told Mayse. " ... There's a great amount of need there and there's a lot we can do with a modest investment." (Read more; subscription required)

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