Study Examines Access to Dental Care for Low Income Iowans


A recent study done of the Dental Wellness Program (DWP) of the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan (IHAWP) examined access to dental care for low income Iowans. Key findings of the study include:

Provider availability:

  • As of January 2015, 646 dentists were accepting new patients for the Dental Wellness Plan (DWP), 85% of whom were general dentists.
  • By comparison, 1,053 dentists had treated at least one Medicaid patient from January-June 2014 – 89% of whom were general dentists.
  • DWP providers were found in 4 states besides Iowa: Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Medicaid providers were found in these states, as well as Wisconsin.
  • As of January 2015, 96 dental specialists were accepting new DWP patients.
    • The only endodontists participating in DWP were those affiliated with the University of Iowa.
    • There were 119 dental specialists1 participating in the Iowa Medicaid program.
  • For DWP members, availability of general dentists in private practice ranged from 0 to 70.2 FTEs per county; 19 counties did not have any general dentists in private practice accepting new patients.
    • By comparison, only 3 counties lacked a Medicaid general dentist working in a private practice setting.

Distance to nearest provider:

  • On average, DWP members lived 4.0 miles to the nearest general dentist in private practice, with a mean travel time of 6.3 minutes.
    • Among Medicaid members, the nearest general dentist in private practice was 2.8 miles, or 4.7 minutes, away.
  • 80% of DWP members lived ≤5 miles to the nearest general dentist compared to 85% of Medicaid members.
    • Only 1.4% of DWP members lived > 25 miles from the nearest general dentist. However, no Medicaid members lived >25 miles from the nearest general dentist.

Public safety net availability:

  • The public dental safety net for DWP members included 144 dentists working at 27 sites, including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), non-FQHC Community Health Centers, academic institutions, and Indian Health Services clinics.
    • By comparison, the public safety net for Medicaid members included 151 dentists at 34 sites.

Provider panel overlap:

  • Overall, 45% of Medicaid dental providers were accepting new DWP patients, including 43% of general dentists.

To read the full report, click here.