States that provide Medicaid adult dental care still have high rates of dental patients who show up at hospital emergency departments, particularly in urban underserved areas, according to a study released this week. The study -- by researchers at Stanford University, UC San Francisco, Truven Health Analytics and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- was published in Health Affairs.
Researchers said a dearth of dental providers who accept Medicaid patients, particularly in those urban underserved areas, has limited the effectiveness of Medicaid dental coverage in states that provide it.
"We found that, in urban counties there were large concentrations of all providers, but not really to serve the poor," said Maria Raven, senior author of the study and associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF.
"There may be a higher density of dentists [in urban areas], but they're still not accepting Medi-Cal patients," Raven said. "Coverage doesn't equal access."
That has resulted in high ED use even in states with Medicaid dental coverage, she said.