OBJECTIVE: Low dental care service utilization among Medicaid-enrolled children has often been attributed to low Medicaid reimbursement levels. The purpose of this study was to provide estimates of preventive dental care utilization by Medicaid-enrolled children with special health care needs (CSHCN) and investigate the association of Medicaid preventive dental care reimbursement levels with the receipt of preventive dental care.
METHODS: We analyzed data for 40256 CSHCN (1–17 years of age). Unadjusted estimates of not needing, needing and receiving, and needing but not receiving preventive dental care are presented. Multilevel logistic regression models were fitted to examine associations between state Medicaid dental-procedure reimbursement and receipt of preventive dental care.
RESULTS: Some significant associations were found between state-level Medicaid dental-procedure reimbursements and receipt of preventive dental care. The strongest individual-level factor associated with not receiving needed preventive dental care was not receiving needed preventive medical care. Parents of Medicaid-enrolled CSHCN were less likely to report receiving needed preventive dental care and more likely to report not needing or not receiving preventive dental care than non–Medicaid-enrolled CSHCN.
CONCLUSIONS: Medicaid-enrolled CSHCN received less needed preventive dental care than non–Medicaid-enrolled CSHCN. An important link to receiving appropriate dental care may be the primary care provider. Raising the level of preventive dental care reimbursement along with other policy changes should increase the frequency of CSHCN receiving preventive dental services. State Medicaid agencies must develop models of medical-dental care management for CSHCN in their programs to ensure the most appropriate care.