• Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Health care and dental benefits with Dr. Fred SharpeDental Management: Health Care Reform & Mid-Level Dental Providers

Dr. Fred Sharpe, Chief Dental Officer for Avesis, addresses this question of dental management: "Do you think that dentistry will change because of governmental pressures?"

"Well, I think we’re seeing the preliminary impact of some of this," says Dr. Sharpe. "The real question is what direction is going to be taken, how quickly will that happen, et cetera. 

"A major line of response that is going on in dentistry or being pushed on dentistry is the idea of a mid-level provider. We had a previous discussion about this with Marc Cooper, and both of us believed that this is one of the alternatives that government is going to look at when they can’t get enough dentists to participate in Medicaid programs.

"Whether or not this becomes a common issue or not is anyone’s guess really, but in many states, the participation among dentists in Medicaid is 15% to 20% at best. Often, it’s difficult to get a sufficient number of dentists or dental groups involved in providing care for Medicaid recipients. If you noted in the conversation that’s going on relative to Obama’s program, he indicates, he’s going to have 16 million more people going into Medicaid of the 32 million additional covered people under the new program.

"That would seem to indicate that there's going to be a lot more Medicaid recipients and I don't see dentistry producing or educating a large number of dentists, so it would seem possible that this might be looked at by various states that say we can’t get our dentist to cooperate, so we’re going to create a new dental professional.

"So this is one alternative—are we going to create another professional within dentistry that’s going to deal with Medicaid recipients because there aren’t enough dentists willing to get involved in that area? There's a certain logic if there's not an excessive number of dentists and a dentist can keep busy without treating low-cost patients."

Dr. Fred Sharpe, DDS, is a managed healthcare and dental benefits advisor. He is Chief Dental Officer at Avesis, which offers an array of vision, dental and hearing programs.

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