Iowa’s Medicaid Toothache

I worked as an admissions clerk at the University of Iowa Dental Clinic after graduate school. We saw patients from all around Iowa — wealthy patients with private insurance, indigents with limited means, and everyone in between. Anyone who came to my desk was accepted for treatment. What I knew then seems poised for change.

Cuts to regents university budgets combined with an Iowa Medicaid administrative disaster led the university to cut off new dental patients on Iowa Medicaid because of difficulty collecting fees and complicated new rules.

“The dispute pits state administrators at the university against their counterparts at the Iowa Department of Human Services,” Des Moines Register reporter Tony Leys wrote last Saturday. “It is the latest skirmish in the bitter controversy over whether Iowa should have private companies run its $5 billion Medicaid program.”

Over 600,000 poor and disabled Iowans are eligible for Medicaid and most adults are covered by its “Dental Wellness Plan,” according to the article. Existing patients will continue to receive treatment. People with pain or swelling will receive emergency treatment at the clinic. As for the rest, the future is uncertain. Read Leys’ article for more details.

The University of Iowa Dental School likely changed since I worked there. What hasn’t changed is Iowa’s poor and indigent populations need our help. Under Republican governance the state is creating obstacles to limited, reasonable dental care offered under Medicaid.

Governor Kim Reynolds is looking into the situation, according to the article. Since she’s all-in on Medicaid privatization, it may be a case of what you see is what you get.

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