Lack of funding is cause of Wisconsin’s poor ranking on access to dental care for kids on Medicaid

Dr. Timothy Durtsche, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in La Crosse and president of the Wisconsin Dental Association, today released the following statement in response to the recent report from the Pew Children’s Dental Campaign titled, “In Search of Dental Care”. The report ranks Wisconsin second to last in the nation in providing dental care to low-income children, with 71.5 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children not visiting a dentist in 2011.

“There has been progress in providing dental care to Wisconsin’s low-income children, but it is largely due to the generosity of dentists who provide charity care despite the state Medicaid program’s limitations. 

“Some 1 million children and adults, 20 percent of Wisconsin residents, receive state dental medical assistance during a 12-month period. Of the $7.1 billion state and federal governments spent on the Wisconsin Medicaid program in fiscal year 2011, less than 1 percent was spent on dentistry. Figures show that dentists actually provided $189.8 million in care to Medicaid enrollees during that time period, but state and federal governments paid just $65.2 million, or 34 percent of the value of that care. Dentists made up the rest, more than was paid for by the state and federal governments combined.

“Despite having to donate care through the state’s system, small-business dental offices and clinics accounted for about 70 percent of all MA patient visits in fiscal year 2012. Dentists also donate their time and skill as volunteers at local reduced-rate dental clinics and through charitable programs like Give Kids A Smile®, Head Start dental days and the upcoming WDA and WDA Foundation Mission of Mercy.

“Charity care, however, is not the solution to this problem. Wisconsin Dental Association members have developed a number of ‘Healthy Choices’ initiatives that can help address the situation, and we stand ready to assist state lawmakers in developing and implementing policies that reduce barriers to dental care for residents of all ages.”