Geographic Accessibility and Utilization of Orthodontic Services Among Medicaid Children and Adolescents
To describe rates of Medicaid-funded services provided by orthodontists in Iowa to children and adolescents, identify factors associated with utilization, and describe geographic barriers to care.
We analyzed enrollment and claims data from the Iowa Medicaid program for a 3-year period, January 2008 through December 2010. Descriptive, bivariate, and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed with utilization of orthodontic services as the main outcome variable. Service areas were identified by small area analysis in order to examine regional variability in utilization.
The overall rate of orthodontic utilization was 3.1 percent. Medicaid enrollees living in small towns and rural areas were more likely to utilize orthodontic services than those living in urban areas. Children who had an oral evaluation by a primary care provider in the year prior to the study period were more likely to receive orthodontic services. Service areas with lower population density and greater mean travel distance to participating orthodontists had higher utilization rates than smaller, more densely populated areas.
Rural residency and increased travel distances do not appear to act as barriers to orthodontic care for this population. The wide variability of utilization rates seen across service areas may be related to workforce supply in the form of orthodontists who accept Medicaid-insured patients. Referrals to orthodontists from primary care dentists may improve access to specialty care for Medicaid enrollees.