Pennsylvania Lost 13.5% of its Medicaid Dentists from 2019 to 2020

According to a recent report entitled "Access to Oral Health Workforce Report, Part I" by the Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health, the state lost 13.5% of its dentists participating in its Medicaid program between the beginning of 2019 and the end of 2020 (a PDF of the executive summary is below).  This decrease is despite a 6.6% increase in Medicaid enrollment.  Worse, the state's entire dental workforce decreased by 10% since 2015 with faster erosion due to COVID-19 and within rural areas.

Reasons for decrease

The primary reasons for the decrease, according to the report, are attrition, burnout and low wages.  A poll of 18 health centres showed that they were now having "more difficulty with recruitment than in the past for dental assistants (87%), dental hygienists (76%), and dentists (63%). "

Low salaries

Probably the most significant factor for dentists is low salaries.

According to the report, "Pennsylvania ranks near the bottom for the annual salaries of licensed dental care providers, ranking 44/53 for dental hygienists and 41/50 for dentists compared to other states and territories. In comparison to the six bordering states, PA is often at or near the bottom for annual clinical dental care workers pay."

Wake-up call for Texas Medicaid?

While Texas ranks significantly higher in average dental salaries than Pennsylvania, it is certainly a cautionary tale for the state regarding Medicaid dental participation.  At what point does it become unviable to care for Medicaid dental patients in Texas?

A budget increase is necessary to tackle a massive drop in access to care.



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