September 2, 2011
The letter to the editor below was submitted on behalf of Wisconsin Dental Association President Dr. Gene Shoemaker, a general dentist with a practice in Waukesha, in response to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Empty Cradles” story. The letter appeared in the Sept. 7, 2011 issue of the paper.
A recent “Empty Cradles” story (“In pain, mom-to-be found only dentist wait list”) pinpoints why Wisconsin must work creatively to get residents the oral health care essential to healthy babies and lives.
The Wisconsin Dental Association’s 3,000 members are committed to helping the state address this difficult challenge, even amid today’s stressed economy. WDA Healthy Choices offer creative solutions for reducing barriers to dental care with little or no added taxpayer burden.
The WDA recommends removing dental services from the HMO system in the six southeastern counties. A state study showed converting coverage to “fee for service” would spend taxpayer dollars more efficiently and provide more people with care. HMOs are limiting access to dental care by failing to meet their 2010 state contract obligations that require them to pay the same fees as those paid by the state for dental care in 66 non-HMO counties.
The WDA also advocates for changes that would allow dentists to delegate more duties to trained dental staff. Services provided would be performed under the supervision of a dentist. This would expand access while maintaining quality.
Dental care access could also be improved in the Badger State by emphasizing preventive education to stop dental problems before they start and providing real incentives for new dentists to practice in underserved communities.
Wisconsin dentists provide millions of dollars in free treatment every year through their private practices and large-scale events. Charitable care gets patients out of pain, but it is not a long-term solution.
We invite policymakers to work with us in giving Wisconsin “Healthy Choices” for improving the oral health and overall health of our state.