The 200 dentists cut from the Idaho Smiles Medicaid program have been reinstated following a meeting October 19 between the Idaho State Dental Association, DentaQuest, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
In an effort to contain costs, DentaQuest -- the company that administers the Idaho Smiles program -- had opted not to renew the contracts of dentists who reportedly overprovided services. DentaQuest has acknowledged the need to address confusion among dentists about budget-driven changes to the Idaho Smiles program that left hundreds without contracts to continue providing services to Medicaid patients, according to Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, who facilitated the October 19 meeting.
"The main thing I want to communicate is the shared commitment by everyone involved that no Idaho Medicaid recipients will be denied access to dental care," he said in a press release announcing the reversal. "That is our top priority, and our promise to Idaho citizens. I appreciate all the leaders accepting my invitation to work this out together. That continuing discussion has gone a long way toward clearing up the misunderstandings among dentists and patients about changes to the Idaho Smiles program that led to over-generalization at last week's televised debate about the reasons that some providers were not extended new contracts."
The Idaho State Dental Association (ISDA) played a key role in getting the policy changed. The ISDA organized its members to contact state legislators and went directly to the governor to lobby against the proposed cutbacks, according to Quinn Dufurrena, D.D.S., J.D., executive director of the ISDA.
"This was the right thing to do, to reverse that policy," Dr. Dufurrena told DrBicuspid.com. "DentaQuest made a mistake."
But Idaho still has access-to-care issues, he emphasized. "This is a short-term solution to a long-term problem."
While reopening the program to all providers who previously had contracts to provide Idaho Smiles Medical dental services, DentaQuest is working with health and welfare department to ensure rigorous monitoring of compliance with contract provisions, the governor noted. In addition, an advisory committee comprising half a dozen dental practitioners will be working closely with DentaQuest to ensure that, going forward, the state's Medicaid funds are used appropriately, according to Dr. Duffurena.
"With this advisory committee, we want to make some common-sense choices here on how we utilize resources," he said.
The Idaho Smiles program was implemented in 2007 and currently provides services to about 220,000 Medicaid recipients, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The department has a five-year contract with Blue Cross to oversee the program; in turn, Blue Cross subcontracts with DentaQuest to administer the program to certain populations.
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