Journal Article: The Individual and Program Impacts of Eliminating Medicaid Dental Benefits in the Oregon Health Plan

American Journal of Public Health
Vol. 101, No. 11
June 16, 2011
Wallace, N.T. et al.
pp. 2140-2150

Objectives. We determined how elimination of dental benefits among adult Medicaid beneficiaries in Oregon affected their access to dental care, Medicaid expenditures, and use of medical settings for dental services.

Methods. We used a natural experimental design using Medicaid claims data (n=22833) before and after Medicaid dental benefits were eliminated in Oregon in 2003 and survey data for continuously enrolled Oregon Health Plan enrollees (n=718) covering 3 years after benefit cuts.

Results. Claims analysis showed that, compared with enrollees who retained dental benefits, those who lost benefits had large increases in dental-related emergency department use (101.7%; P<.001) and expenditures (98.8%; P<.001) and in all ambulatory medical care use (77.0%; P<.01) and expenditures (114.5%; P<.01). Survey results indicated that enrollees who lost dental benefits had nearly 3 times the odds (odds ratio=2.863; P=.001) of unmet dental need, and only one third the odds (odds ratio=0.340; P=.001) of getting annual dental checkups relative to those retaining benefits.

Conclusions. Combined evidence from both analyses suggested that the elimination of dental benefits resulted in significant unmet dental health care needs, which led to increased use of medical settings for dental problems. (Am J Public Health. 2011;101:1514-1520. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2010.300031)

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