Families with Medicaid Dental Benefits Face Unique Barriers to Dental Care, New Study Finds

Kennesaw State and Emory University researchers find that financial concerns and transportation challenges keep many families with Medicaid dental benefits from visiting the dentist regularly

Jul 30, 2015, 15:34 ET from Benevis Foundation

ATLANTA, July 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Only 26.5% of Texas parents with children eligible for Medicaid dental coverage consistently bring their children to the dentist as frequently as they should, according to results from a new survey by the Benevis Foundation, conducted by Kennesaw State and Emory University researchers.  

Researchers analyzed survey responses from parents of children who were enrolled in Medicaid and eligible for dental benefits to determine levels of awareness and utilization of Medicaid dental benefits, and identify possible barriers to both. 

Of the 166 survey respondents, a majority (78.3 percent) understood the importance of dental visits every six months. However, 66 percent of those respondents reported circumstances that prevented them from visiting the dentist regularly, citing financial hardship, transportation challenges, and scheduling difficulties.

The results reveal that while many Medicaid-eligible families understand the importance of regular dental visits, some are unaware of the full coverage of their dental benefit, and others face access challenges that prevent them from fully utilizing the dental benefit.

"Even with Medicaid dental benefits covering all costs to the family, parents cite financial hurdles as their main barrier," said Geoffrey Freeman, spokesperson for the Benevis Foundation. "This suggests that parents may not be aware of the complete coverage of their benefit, or that there may be secondary costs – such as transportation or unpaid time off work – that keeps these families from visiting the dentist as often as they would like."

Researchers were also intrigued by another survey finding: While Texas public schools do not require a dental exam for enrollment, parents who incorrectly believed this was a requirement (63.7 percent) were more likely to hold the belief that semi-annual dental exams were important for their children.

"Requiring dental exams for school enrollment sends the message that regular dental visits are important, and appears to be a strong motivator for parents," said Freeman. "Further research is needed to compare areas with and without dental exam requirements, to determine if this has a significant impact on dental visits and other behaviors associated with good dental hygiene."

All of the survey respondents' children were eligible for full Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Plans (CHIP) dental coverage and were within a reasonable distance to an assigned dentist, but had not utilized the dental benefit. The majority of survey respondents (71.6%) were Hispanic, and 80% of respondents had an income below $30,000 per year. All of the survey respondents resided in Texas.

The primary research for this study was conducted by Margaret Faso and Claire Ainsley Pelura, graduate students with Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health as part of their REAL program. The analysis was conducted by Kevin Robinson, Graduate Research Assistant at Kennesaw State University's Center of Statistics and Analytical Services and reviewed by Constant Analytics.The study was funded by the Benevis Foundation.

To see the full study, please click here.

About the Benevis Foundation
The Benevis Foundation is committed to improving dental care access and outcomes for underserved communities in the United States through research, education and outreach. The foundation sponsors ongoing research on the role of Medicaid dental providers in improving access to preventative care, early intervention, and dental health education among traditionally underserved pediatric populations, as well as research on the cost savings associated with improving access to dental care among these patient populations in both federal and state healthcare systems. Through these research efforts, the Benevis Foundation hopes to provide data that informs and strengthens public policy related to dental access and affordability. For more information, visit http://benevis.com/benevis-foundation/.

About Constant Analytics
Constant Analytics (www.constantanalytics.com) is a boutique professional services firm that develops specialized marketing insights for consumer brands and services. Born from the knowledge that marketing investments are not simply adjacent to positive business results, our charter is to provide highly accountable analytics for marketing measurement and optimization. Our analytics are the tools, insights and prescriptions which lead to improved marketing returns. And, our approach helps you achieve your goals faster.


SOURCE Benevis Foundation