Health Policy

Member and dentist narratives about a dental programme for the Medicaid expansion population: A content analysis

Reynolds, J.C.; Sukalski, J.M.C.; McKernan, S.C.; Damiano, P.C.



In the United States, the 2010 Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion improved financial access to dental care for new Medicaid enrollees in states with Medicaid dental benefits for adults. Using an existing theoretical framework, we explored dentist and Medicaid member narratives concerning a state's redesigned dental programme for the Medicaid expansion population.


Data sources include two surveys conducted in 2016—one to a random sample of Medicaid members and one to private practice dentists in Iowa. A qualitative content analysis approach was used to quantify and describe themes present in openā€ended comment data.


The most common themes among Medicaid member narratives were related to oral health needs and status, availability of dentists who accept Medicaid, and Medicaid coverage for dental care. Among dentists, the programme's administrative burden was the most common theme, with coverage and reimbursement commonly cited as well. An emergent theme among both member and dentist comments was patient confusion or lack of knowledge about programme enrolment and coverage.


Member awareness about enrolment and coverage in public dental benefit plans should be further explored to determine the impact on access to care. Effectively communicating the intent, programme design and expectations of a Medicaid programme to both providers and Medicaid members is important to the success of the programme.