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The Good Practice: Treating Underserved Dental Patients While Staying Afloat

This report outlines tools and techniques to help California dental practices contend with the financial limitations of treating low-income and uninsured patients. An issue brief examines the difficulties facing federally qualified health centers.

California's low reimbursement rates for Medicaid dental services stand as a major obstacle to improving the oral health of its low-income population. Denti-Cal, the state's primary public financer for dental care, has some of the lowest payments in the nation, offering dentists just 30% of customary fees. As a result, only four in 10 California dentists accept Denti-Cal patients.

Nonetheless, some dental clinics have found ways not only to cope with Denti-Cal's limitations, but even to increase their payment revenues and expand their capacity to treat low-income and uninsured patients. By strategically altering the design and delivery of their services, these clinics have developed best practices that allow them to streamline operations and boost efficiency and productivity.

This guide outlines the necessary techniques and tools, including the fundamentals of creating a sound strategic plan, paying special attention to the reimbursement process and payer mix, achieving a smooth patient flow, designing an optimal staffing pattern, having effective business systems, and implementing new technologies and clinical programs. An audio report provides a firsthand glimpse of the challenges and rewards of treating underserved patients.

This eight-minute audio report recounts the experiences of three dentists who treat uninsured and Medi-Cal dental patients and how they were able to improve their practices.

Audio Report: The Good Practice - Interviews with Community Dentists

This eight-minute audio report recounts the experiences of three dentists who treat uninsured and Medi-Cal dental patients and how they were able to improve their practices.

In addition, a companion issue brief focuses on the specific barriers faced by California's federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in expanding dental services. The authors conducted in-depth interviews at six clinics with low to moderate volumes of dental patients and developed a set of recommendations to help community providers overcome these impediments, improve productivity, and increase capacity.

The full report is available under Document Downloads. The issue brief can be found under Related CHCF Pages.

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