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Proposal would increase access to dental services for nearly 1.1 million Minnesotans

Commissioner’s visit highlights work of Rochester clinic

3/27/2017 1:51:36 PM

Media inquiries only
Jeanine Nistler

Many publicly-funded health care program enrollees in Minnesota have limited or no access to dental care. Today, Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper visited the Salvation Army’s Good Samaritan Dental Clinic in Rochester to highlight a proposal expected to increase access to dental providers for the nearly 1.1 million people enrolled in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare.

“Far too many Minnesotan children and families go without dental care and their overall health suffers as a result,” said Piper. “It’s unacceptable that under 40 percent of Minnesota kids enrolled in public health care programs received dental care last year. We need to work together to ensure all Minnesotans, especially our children, are able to access the dental care they need to stay healthy.”

Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal includes a 54-percent increase in reimbursement rates for all dental services provided to Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare enrollees. The proposal also would simplify the administrative burden for providers who choose to serve public program enrollees. 

Good Samaritan Dental Clinic in Rochester is a non-profit clinic that works with volunteer dentists to treat Olmsted County residents who are uninsured or are covered by public programs and can’t find a dental provider who will see them.

“Every year our clinic sees approximately 1,400 patients, primarily for urgent, emergency dental issues,” said Pam Lawrence, dental clinic coordinator. “We fill a really important need by relieving their pain in the short-term, but we often struggle to connect them with providers in the community where they can receive the follow-up and preventative dental care they need to stay out of our clinic.”

Dental health professionals who serve publicly funded program enrollees are scarce. In 2015, just 37 percent of Minnesota children enrolled in Medical Assistance received dental services, a rate well below the national average of 45 percent. Low reimbursement rates for providers and administrative complexity are the main obstacles to serving people enrolled in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. 

Gov. Dayton’s proposed investment and reform would encourage more dental providers to participate in Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare, thus making it easier for people to receive care. Similar reforms to payment and administrative approaches have been successful in other states.

This proposal is part of the health care coverage and purchasing reform package, which has a net savings to the state of $4.8 million in the 2018-19 biennium and a cost of $3.9 million in the 2020-21 biennium. More information about this and other budget proposals is available on the /dhs/media/fact-sheets/index.jsp2017 session fact sheets archive on the DHS website.


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