Audit Shows Minn. Medicaid Dental Program is Underfunded

Updated: 03/12/2013 6:08 AM KSTP.com By: Jay Kolls

Another audit shows problems with Minnesota's Medicaid program. This time it's the dental program.

The Legislative Auditor says dentists are underfunded and parts of the dental program are not managed well. The dental program costs Minnesota taxpayers $131 million to operate and it's designed to help the elderly, disabled, children and low-income people. It is the state's largest publicly funded medical assistance program. But, the audit shows dentists have not received increases in Medicaid reimbursements from the four insurance companies that run the program since 2000.

HealthPartners, Blue Shield/Blue Cross of Minnesota, U-Care and Medica run the state's Medicaid program and oversee dental care, which is part of the Medicaid program. Last week, an independent audit showed the four HMOs were overpaid $162 million to run the Medicaid program over the past eight years. Sherri Ronning is a Medicaid patient who tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS she is "frustrated and angry."

Ronning says she has a job, pays taxes and even a small premium to be in the Medicaid dental program. She qualifies for the assistance because she is disable with chronic arthritis. Recently, she needed surgery on her teeth and mouth, but was told Medicaid no longer covers anesthesia. So, Ronning could either suffer through the pain, pay the anesthesia bill, or skip the surgery. She is now saving her own money to pay for the anesthesia. But, she says HMOs should cover the anesthesia because they are sitting on huge reserve bank accounts and the "overpayment should be sent back to taxpayers," Ronning emphasized.

The Minnesota Dental Association says the new audit shows why dentists are closing their clinics. The group says without an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement, for over 10 years, some dentists cannot afford to stay in business because the government requires them to accept a minimum of 10 percent of their patients under the Medicaid program.