Minnesota's dental reimbursement effort likely to fall short

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MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — A push to make it easier for dentists to be reimbursed for treating patients with state insurance in Minnesota looks like it will succeed at the Capitol, but not by as much as advocates hoped.

Minnesota is last in the nation when it comes to reimbursements for pediatric dentistry, with dentists receiving 26.7 percent from the state of what a commercial insurance provider would pay, The Free Press of Mankato (http://bit.ly/1Hcs6zR ) reported.

Advocates asked in March for enough to place Minnesota in the middle of the pack, which would cost an estimated $111 million, but it appears the state will raise its dental reimbursement by much less.

It's likely that the final bill will increase general fund spending on Medical Assistance dental coverage by somewhere between $3.2 million, which was included in the House budget, and $17.5 million, which was proposed by the Senate.

State Sen. Julie Rosen, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said her chamber's funding level would be a "welcomed increase."

The Senate's spending would be enough to increase the base reimbursement rate by 24 percent, Rosen said, adding that she plans to seek more money in the next budget.

Members of the House also agreed that a small amount was better than holding out for the full amount requested by advocates.

"The goal is to move the needle," said state Rep. Nick Zerwas, the bill's sponsor.

He acknowledges that cuts in state funding for health and human services worked as a roadblock against his efforts to seek a major spending increase.

But the proposed dental reimbursement hikes are "definitely not enough to solve the problem," said Peter Cannon, president-elect of the Minnesota Dental Association. Untreated mouths will end up costing the state more money, he said, because patients on public assistance problems eventually will end up in emergency rooms if they cannot be treated by dentists.


Information from: The Free Press, http://www.mankatofreepress.com

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