Yesterday on the Northern Alliance Radio Network, we were discussing a series of new laws for Minnesota that would take effect with the coming of the New Year. One of these new laws concerned the cap on dental benefits available under state provided medical care:
More Low-Income Dental Care: A $500 annual benefit cap for dental care has been removed under the Medical Assistance, MinnesotaCare and General Assistance medical care programs.
We joked that this bill was no doubt pushed by the "Big Dentistry" lobbyists at the legislature. Near the end of the second hour of the show, we received a call from a dentist who explained that contrary to our comments, dentists in the state were not benefiting from treating patients under these state plans and, in fact, most dentists had stopped seeing such patients because the state was only willing to reimburse 43% of the charges incurred. Our caller said that costs made up 70% of his charges, so he was losing a good chunk of change by treating patients on these state supported plans and would no longer continue to do so in 2006.
My wife, who has experience in the medical insurance arena, e-mailed me during the show to back up the dentist's claims:
I am glad the dentist called your show. That's exactly correct. The MA reimbursement rate is so low that most dentists don't want to take MA patients. We had a hard time finding dentists in the network that will take them. If they do take them, they are usually at their max....like the dentist said, they don't want all MA patients. Shows why the legislature is out of tune as to what is going on, increasing the cap is not going to help the persons on MA.
Also, most private dental plans have caps....look at ours, for example, has a cap of 1500-2000 per yr.
I am sure someone had concerns that MA persons not getting the dental care they need, not looking as to why, just increase the cap....typical political move!
The dentist also made a good point that a lot of the MA patients don't show up for the appts, that is true across the board when it comes to medical care.....we had to develop incentives for MA patients to go to their appts (i.e. gave them Target gift cards if they went to x amount of appts in a row).
So let's recap what we've got going here. The state program is supposed to provide dental care for people who can't afford it on their own. But the state reimbursement rate is so low that dentists refuse to treat the patients. Bad situation for all involved: those who need the care, the dentists, and the taxpayers of the state.
The solution from the legislature? They raise the caps, which does nothing to address the root of the problem and, in fact, makes it worse as our dentist caller explained that all that raising the caps would do is cause him to lose even MORE money.
Your government at work folks.