Medicaid Does Not Improve Access to Dental Services for Poor Children


According to a new study.

Abstract –  Background:  Data are lacking to support the contention that Medicaid services improve utilization of healthcare services and result in better health.

Objective:  To compare sociodemographic, utilization of healthcare services and health status characteristics among Medicaid-eligible children.

Methods:  The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey included 2821 children 2–16 years of age eligible for Medicaid. The main outcome measures are annual physician visit, annual dentist visit, general health status, oral health status, asthma (second most common childhood disease), dental caries (most common childhood disease), asthma treatment needs, and dental treatment needs. We quantified the association of these outcome measures with Medicaid insurance status and sociodemographic status using multiple logistic regression modeling, taking into account the complex survey design and sample weights.

Results:  Among Medicaid-eligible children, 27% were uninsured. Among uninsured Medicaid-eligible children, 62% had an annual physician visit, 32% had an annual dentist visit, 10% needed asthma treatment, and 57% needed dental treatment. Among insured Medicaid-eligible children, 81% had an annual physician visit, 39% had an annual dentist visit, 13% needed asthma treatment, and 42% needed dental treatment. After simultaneously taking into account other characteristics, uninsured Medicaid-eligible children were more likely to not have an annual physician visit (ORNoMDvisit = 2.21; 1.26–3.90), and to need dental treatment (ORDentalNeed = 1.57; 1.13–2.18).

Conclusions:  This USA population-based study found disparities exist within Medicaid’s services between utilization of dental and medical services. Medicaid insurance improved utilization of medical services, but did not improve the utilization of dental services. This suggests that Medicaid insurance does not improve access to dental services for poor children.

Once upon a time, when I treated California Denti-Cal (Medicaid) patients, the no show or broken appointment rate was astounding. These folks were getting “FREE” dental treatment and they continued to not show up.

I have to agree with the conclusions of this study.

If the patient or the parents of the child patient do not have any “skin” in the game, it doesn’t matter that much to them.