Child's Access to Dental Care Tied to Insurance Provider

Medicaid beneficiaries less likely to get urgent appointment than those with private insurance

TUESDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- Children with private dental insurance are significantly more likely to attain an appointment for an urgent oral injury compared to those with Medicaid coverage, even in dental practices enrolled in the Medicaid program, according to a study published online May 23 in Pediatrics.

Joanna Bisgaier, M.S.W., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues investigated the effect of insurance status on a dental practice's willingness to schedule emergency care for acute oral injury in children. Research assistants attempted to make an emergency appointment for a fictitious 10-year-old son. A total of 85 dental practices were called twice, four weeks apart, with the only difference being the child's insurance coverage (Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program versus private Blue Cross dental coverage). Of the dental practices, 41 were enrolled in the Medicaid program. The differences in the probability of scheduling an appointment were assessed.

The investigators found that 95.4 percent of Blue Cross-insured children obtained an appointment, compared to 36.5 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries for the same oral injury. Compared to children with private insurance, children with Medicaid cover were still 18.2 times more likely to be denied an appointment in dental practices enrolled in the Medicaid program.

"We found disparities in access to emergency dental care for children with public compared with private insurance," the authors write.

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