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Dentists who give care to poor children get help

Utah dentists providing care to young Medicaid patients got a boost Wednesday with a vote to appropriate $2.7 million in ongoing funds to supplement low reimbursement rates.

"We have several hundreds of thousands of children in our state . . . that are not receiving the care that they need from our dental providers because they are absolutely not in a position to do so," said sponsoring Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan.

Mascaro's bill would appropriate $2.7 million in ongoing monies, beginning in 2006-2007, and require the state to reimburse dentists at 75 percent of the regional fee schedule for services. Dentists and physicians last month told members of the Health and Human Services Interim Committee that the state's Medicaid reimbursement rates often prohibited them from treating adult low-income patients.

Dental providers are required by federal law to provide care for children on Medicaid. With three votes against it, the committee elected to support Mascaro's legislation as a committee bill.

"I think we should make this a priority," said Rep. Pat Jones, D-Cottonwood Heights. "It will be a preventive measure . . . the impact will be long-lasting on these children."

The legislation does not address reimbursement rates for adult Medicaid patients, which, according to the Utah Department of Health, are among the lowest in the nation.