Indexed on: 25 May '11Published on: 25 May '11Published in: Pediatrics
We examined the impact of insurance status on dental practices' willingness to schedule an appointment for a child with a symptomatic fractured permanent front tooth.Between February and May 2010, 6 research assistants posed as mothers of a 10-year-old boy seeking an urgent dental appointment. Two calls 4 weeks apart, with the same clinical scenario, were made by the same caller to a stratified random sample of dental practices, one-half of which were enrolled in the state's combined Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) dental program. The only difference in the calls was the child's insurance coverage (Medicaid/CHIP versus private Blue Cross dental coverage). We estimated differences in the log-odds probability of scheduling an appointment for a child with public versus private insurance by using exact conditional (fixed-effects) logistic regression, which accounts for paired data.Of 170 paired calls to 85 dental practices (41 participating in the Medicaid program), only 36.5% of Medicaid beneficiaries obtained any appointment compared with 95.4% of Blue Cross-insured children with the same oral injury. Among dental providers enrolled in the Medicaid program, children with Medicaid were still 18.2 times more likely to be denied an appointment than privately insured counterparts (95% confidence interval: 3.1 to ∞; P < .001).Illinois dentists, including those participating in Medicaid, are less likely to see a child for an urgent dental complaint if the child has public versus private dental coverage. These results have implications for developing policies that improve access to oral health care.