Evaluation of the Dental Wellness Plan: Experiences of Private Practice Dentists After Two Years

In 2014, Iowa expanded its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, providing health coverage to low- income adults previously ineligible for Medicaid. Medical coverage is provided through a program called the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan (IHAWP), and dental coverage for this population is delivered through a program called the Dental Wellness Plan (DWP). The DWP was implemented in May 2014, and at the time of the study it employed an earned benefits structure to encourage preventive health care–seeking behaviors. In this model, all DWP members were eligible for preventive and emergency services, and if they returned for regular checkups they became eligible for more dental benefits, including fillings, crowns and other treatments. By contrast, Iowa Medicaid members outside of the DWP were eligible for comprehensive dental coverage upon enrollment.

DWP provider incentives included high reimbursement (about 50% higher than Medicaid reimbursement rates) and bonuses based on relative engagement with DWP enrollees. In the program’s first two years, Delta Dental of Iowa was the DWP’s sole carrier, with an 895-dentist provider network; MCNA became DWP’s second carrier in July 2016.

Reynolds, J., McKernan, S., Sukalski, J., McInroy, B., Kuthy, R., & Damiano, P. Evaluation of the Dental Wellness Plan: Experiences of Private Practice Dentists After Two Years. Iowa City, IA:University of Iowa Public Policy Center.