The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 5, 2013

My View: Cavities off the charts without accountability

MANKATO — I appreciate the recent article in The Free Press, “Tooth decay in state children growing worse,” regarding the $148 million spent from 2007-2010 in emergency department charges in Minnesota for preventable, non-traumatic conditions that could have been treated in a dental office.

Do you know how many dental exams could be done with $149 million in wasted emergency visits? Divide it by $250, that equals 596,000 children who could have received care.

The state insurance plans puts more value in dental emergency room visits than providing correct reimbursements to the dental provider. At the present time, the reimbursement from the state does not even cover the costs of infection control, OSHA mandates, employee mandates, federal mandates of electronic record keeping that a dental office has to expense before even seeing these children.

There was an office in Southern Minnesota called Main Street Dental of Blooming Prairie and its mission was to take care of the poor population. They had over 25,000 visits a year. They closed in January 2012 because the reimbursements were only 25 percent of the fees charged for dental care from the state of Minnesota insurance contracts. If the state insurance companies that won the contracts would reimburse at least 75 percent of the fees the dental provider charges, I guarantee that there would be more dental providers able to afford to take care of these children.

What was the dental emergency room visit payment made to the hospital? I guarantee it was more than the reimbursement that the dental provider gets for a dental health exam. The other interesting piece to this complicated puzzle is that the insurance companies that win the bid to manage the insurance for the poor do not have to be audited by law. Last year, UCare insurance company, out of the goodness of their heart, gave $30 million back to the state of Minnesota after a whistle blower made it aware to our elected officials that insurance companies that won the state contracts were profiting from these state contracts. 120,000 children in Minnesota could have seen their dentist with those dollars.

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