Thursday, April 11, 2013

Proposal for Medicaid Dental Clinic in Washtenaw County, MI

The Reader
The day before I take my son Danny for his annual cleaning to a private dentist who does not accept Medicaid dental insurance, I read in my local paper that there are plans afoot to establish a clinic specifically for people insured by Medicaid. Danny is one of those people who is on Medicaid, but in recent years, of the dentists who will accept his insurance, we have not felt that his dental care was adequate to his needs. I am all for the new clinic as a way to serve more people who need and deserve better care.

An article in, "Washtenaw County considers dental clinic for Medicaid patients" by Amy Biolchini on 4/10/13, provides details on the need for a clinic and looks at a proposal for funding and operation of a clinic specializing in Medicaid patients.

The Washtenaw County Director of Public Health Dick Fleece, three of the County's 9 Commissioners, the County Executive Verna McDaniel, and the staff from the Universtiy of Michigan's Dental Clinic met to discuss a proposal to build a new dental clinic in the County.

Because of the low reimbursement rate for Medicaid dental care, less than 1% of the 300 dentists in Washtenaw County accept Medicaid patients. [How's that for an effective way for the state to get credit for providing dental insurance for low income people while not following through by funding it adequately?] While there are other free dental clinics in Ann Arbor, they are limited to people who do not have insurance, or they are limited in the number of people they can treat or are not able to treat people with medical or behavioral problems. Fleece, the Director of Public Health is asking for funding from the County to build the clinic that would be paid back over the next 10 - 20 years.  If the clinic is associated with a local health department, it is eligible for a higher reimbursement rate for Medicaid dental services.

He proposes that the clinic be run by "Michigan Community Dental Clinics Inc., a nonprofit company that runs dental clinics for 22 health departments in the state". The County Executive Verna McDaniel is supportive of the idea and "directed her staff to further pursue the logistics to creating a dental clinic".

“We have met people who are ashamed to smile, and that’s embarrassing. Their self-worth is lowered. Their ability to interact with people is diminished, and their ability to apply for a job is diminished,” says Fleece. Add to that people who cannot tell you if they are suffering from pain associated with poor dental care and whose pain is often misinterpreted as bad behavior or just taken for granted as another manifestation of their disability. The need for a new clinic is certainly justified.

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