Objective: To evaluate changes in emergency department (ED) dental-related visits in Maricopa County before and after the elimination of dental benefits for adult Medicaid-insured patients as of October 2010. Methods: Hospital visits extracted from a hospital discharge dataset were used to calculate a yearly rate ratio of dental-related versus non–dental-related ED visits (as a comparison group) for adults, children, and payer types. Changes in ED visits over time were evaluated from 2006 to 2012. Results: Overall, 1.3 percent of all ED visits (8,030,767) were for dental-related purposes. Medicaid-insured patients accounted for 41.9 percent and 44.3 percent of all dental-related ED visits in 2006 and 2012, respectively. The rate ratio for the percentage of dental-related versus non–dental-related ED visits in each age category and payer type showed little fluctuation over time indicating no evidence of change in the dental-related ED visits as a proportion of the overall number of visits due to the cuts in the dental benefits for adult Medicaid-insured patients. Conclusion: We found no evidence that cuts in dental benefits for adult Medicaid-insured patients resulted in increased dental-related ED visits in Maricopa County during the study period. Rather, we found evidence of a shift in payer type after the 2010 policy change where dental-related ED visits by self-paid patients increased as dental-related ED visits by Medicaid-insured patients decreased. Such payer shifts will result in high uncompensated care burdens for providers and, ultimately, governmental payers.
- dental care
- dental care delivery
- emergency departments
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health