Can Medicaid provide oral healthcare equity?

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Can Medicaid provide oral healthcare equity to poor Americans? Three thought leaders from the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) explored that question in a commentary published in the July edition of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

The commentary reflected the ideas of authors Dr. Jessica Lee, president of the AAPD; Dr. Paul Casamassimo, chief policy officer for the AAPD; and Dr. Charles Czerepak, president of the AAPD Foundation. The experts proposed five steps for using Medicaid to move the U.S. toward oral health equity.

The proposals included raising dental fees to increase dentist participation in Medicaid. Further, the authors called on lawmakers to provide bolder incentives for dental providers to accept Medicaid, such as tuition payback for participating in the program, fee incentives for practicing in rural areas, and increasing fees for providing care for special needs populations.

The authors also called on policymakers to expand dental Medicaid for all adults, as well as to fix the current fee-for-service system without moving toward a value-based or managed care model. Finally, they suggested lawmakers forgo top-down decision-making and engage the community when creating solutions.

"We believe the following fundamental changes in Medicaid would begin to restore both hope for oral healthcare and trust in government among people who depend on Medicaid for healthcare," the authors wrote (JADA, July 2021, Vol. 152:7, pp. 495-499).

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