Local dental clinics weigh in on Governor Evers' proposed plan to expand dental care

    Executive Director of Tri -County Dental in Appleton. (WLUK)

    OUTAGAMIE COUNTY (WLUK) -- Governor Tony Evers (D-Wisconsin) wants to devote more state dollars to expand access to dental care in Wisconsin, especially for those living in rural areas.

    Jeff Buchta, the Executive Director of Tri-County Dental, says Governor Evers' plan to invest 16 million dollars on reimbursement rates for dental providers who see Medicaid patients, could help expand service in the area.

    "In 2017 we treated 17,000 people in Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago Counties, and they were all people on Medicaid or low income that didn't have Medicaid, " said Buchta. "These were all people that needed dental care that wouldn't have been able to get care any where else, so it's a huge need."

    Buchta said Medicaid only reimburses about 20 to 25 percent of the normal costs to see these patients.

    That deters a lot of dentists in the area from accepting that insurance.

    Evers is looking to spend more than $43 million in dental care over the next two years.

    Of that, $120,000 is being used to expand the state's loan repayment program for dentists willing to serve in rural areas.

    "We've had the problem here at Dental Associates with a lot of new dentists not wanting to come even to Green Bay, they all want to go to big metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Chicago, so I would say there's a shortage," said Dr. Sam Schmidt with Dental Associates, located in Howard.

    According to the governor's office, more than 200 dentists are needed across the state.

    With the governor's proposed plan, many are hoping to close the gap.

    "Dentist are graduating with loans up to $500,00 so I think it would be very attractive to some of these students," said Buchta.

    FOX 11 reached out to Republican state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for comment to see whether or not Republicans could support this proposal, however he was not available to comment.

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