CBS 7 News
March 1, 2012
ODESSA, TX - Big changes to the Medicaid dental program may mean some children in West Texas have to wait even longer to get treatment.
It's a change that came with very little warning or information from the Medicaid program.
Now it has pediatric dentists across the state scrambling to help their patients maintain their appointments.
"It was a very bad day for pediatric dentists across the state because we do serve the Medicaid population and a lot of patients went without being seen today," said Dr. Joel Edwards, the only pediatric dentist in Odessa who serves Medicaid patients.
He says Medicaid patients went without being seen because of big changes to their insurance coverage that all took effect Thursday.
For years Medicaid dental insurance was a state run program, but now it's being handed over to three different insurance companies Delta Dental, DentaQuest and MCNA Dental.
The real changes come down to the patient who now has to pick one of the three companies, and select a doctor that is also covered by that particular company.
"Mainly it's putting more on the patient so they have to do more to have their appointment scheduled, let alone get their treatments done," explained Rachel Edwards, Joel's sister and Office Manager.
Dr. Edwards's practice specifically did not schedule any Medicaid patients for Thursday, because they did not want to be forced to turn away patients who hadn't completed the switch.
Rachel says they did however have plenty of communication with those patients, as their phone lines flooded with their calls, "It was kind of sad because we had to say, we don't know if we can schedule you."
The abrupt change even shut down one of the new companies, Delta Dental's phone lines because of the overwhelming call load.
Medicaid announced the switch about two months ago, but gave very little information and provided little support to practices like this one.
"I called for the past month wanting updates, wanting to make sure we were prepared and basically the message I got was wait until we go live on March 1st," Rachel said.
Now dozens of patients may also have to wait, if they don't complete their paper work and get approved for the switch on time.
"With the Medicaid patients typically it's booked out quite a while to see a pediatric dentist and you wait, and then you get your appointment and because your insurance has changed you have to wait even longer."
For some that will mean many more months of waiting to see a dentist.
Dr. Edwards's office also tells CBS 7 that another change will be monitoring patients who miss appointments; if they miss too many they will completely lose their Medicaid coverage.
For Medicaid patients who still need to make the change here's the list of numbers:
Delta Dental (1-877) 576-5899
DentaQuest (1-800) 685-9971
MCNA Dental (1-800) 494-6262
Click here for a link to the Texas Medicaid program