The first of a
two-part series on the lack of access to dental care among
Wisconsin residents was published this week in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal
The vicious cycle of low reimbursement for Medicaid services and
thus low dentist participation in those programs may not be news to
anyone in the dental community, but Wisconsin presents some unique
challenges because of the state-funded BadgerCare plan, which fewer
dentists accept than even Medicaid. From the article:
In southeast Wisconsin, the private companies that
contract with the state to manage the care for children and parents
covered by BadgerCare Plus contract with Southeast Dental
Associates S.C. to provide dental care.
Southeast Dental Associates has a network of 108 dentists,
including specialists such as oral surgeons, in Milwaukee,
Waukesha, Racine and Kenosha counties. That doesn't include
hygienists or students at Marquette University's School of
Many, if not most, dentists in the network, though, limit the
number of patients they see because of what Southeast Dental
"We do what we can and still stay in business," said Michael
Costello of Downtown Dental Group.
Costello, a dentist, and his staff treat 20 BadgerCare Plus
patients a week, setting aside an hour each Tuesday and Thursday.
The slots are limited to children.
"They need the care," he said. "They need the help."
The appointments are scheduled starting at 9 a.m. each Monday. The
phone rings steadily for at least an hour on most weeks, with two
people fielding the calls and someone always on hold.
"I can't help everybody," Costello said, "so I'm doing what I
His system for scheduling limits the number of missed appointments
- a persistent problem for dentists who see patients covered by
BadgerCare Plus or Medicaid. Booking patients months in advance
increases the chances of a patient not showing up for an
Costello estimates that what Southeast Dental Associates pays
covers the practice's costs if he doesn't include his
Association for Health Care Journalists blog