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Petition aims to stop backlog of Medicaid dental patients in Colorado

Many dentists currently deny Medicaid patients because the reimbursement rate is so low that providers lose money by accepting these appointments.

DENVER — Dentists say Medicaid patients could wait months for simple procedures because providers deny appointments due to the amount of reimbursement. Dentists say that they are reimbursed at 45% of the cost of the procedure, which doesn't break even on the cost on their end. 

As a result, patients can wait months for procedures that would otherwise be booked immediately under private insurance plans. Now, dentists across the state are working together to put Initiative 82 on the ballot. 

"You might have an abscess tooth and a toothache and pain. You have to wait three, four months before you can get a root canal done. So that's frustrating for those patients to try to get their treatment done in time," said Dr. Christopher Morris, who practices in Littleton. 

The reimbursement for dentists is lower than the reimbursement for physicians, which is 75%. Dentists like Dr. Morris say the gap in reimbursement between the medical field and the dental field isn't fair. Because of the low reimbursement, some dentists don't see Medicaid patients at all. 

"Medicaid patients that have a hard time getting treatment on time may end up going to the ER that doesn't really do dental work. They may end up deciding to have a tooth pulled that could have been fixed and saved," said Dr. Morris. 

Initiative 82 would require the Colorado rates to go up to 73% of the cost of the procedure to be covered by Medicaid.

The ballot measure requires that 125,000 registered Colorado voters sign it before it makes it to the November ballot. The petition can only be signed in person, with many petitions at dental offices across the state

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