Analysis of State Dental Hygiene Practice Acts and Medicaid Policies for Children's Dental Care: Services Covered and Practitioners Reimbursed

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2007
Project completed:
January 2012

Children's oral health assumes increasing importance as links between dental and eventual health status are documented. A significant number of rural communities lack dental care practitioners, and large proportions of rural children lack dental insurance (Almeida et al., retrieved 2007; Byck et al., 2001). Medicaid can fill some service gaps, but reimbursement rates vary from state to state directly impacting access to care for children who are Medicaid-eligible.

The study will obtain a clear picture of the degree to which (1) state SCHIP and Medicaid programs are implementing waivers, or other programs, to improve access to dental care for vulnerable populations and (2) dental hygienists impact the dental safety net.

We propose to conduct a qualitative, comparative analysis of state authorizing legislation for dental hygienists, illuminating rules around supervision, reimbursement, location in the dental safety net, and prescriptive and general authorities. Through qualitative interviews, we will describe mechanisms state Medicaid/SCHIP programs are using to improve access to dental care for children and pregnant women.

A technical report to ORHP will be generated. Key findings of the study and the executive summary will be posted on the South Carolina Rural Health Research Center website.