KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Consider Licensing Dental Therapists To Fill Cavities — And Care Gap

A shortage of dentists spurred Minnesota to license dental therapists, and several other states may follow suit, USA Today reports. Meanwhile, a health plan in rural South Dakota and Minnesota is hiring Native American healers as consultants.

USA Today: Dental Therapists Aim To Fill Dental-Care Gap
With a growing number of people on medical assistance or without insurance needing dental care and an insufficient number of dentists, "The need for dental therapists is huge," says (Megan) Meyer, among the first nine graduates of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry's Dental Therapy program in 2011. The school's second graduating class of nine students received their degrees earlier this month. ... Although Minnesota is currently the only state to license dental therapists, a number of others, including California, Kansas, Maine and New Hampshire, are considering such midlevel providers (Healy, 1/2).

The Associated Press: Sanford To Hire 2 Native American Healers
The country's largest rural, nonprofit hospital system is hiring two traditional Native American healers to train medical staff in the Dakotas and Minnesota in an effort to better serve the American Indian patient population. Sanford Health is in the process of hiring a Lakota/Dakota and an Ojibwe to serve as consultants as part of a three-year $12 million Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services award, said Read Sulik, Sanford's senior vice president for Behavioral Health Services. "Being where we're located in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota, we realized we serve perhaps the largest American Indian population in a health system outside of Indian Health Services of probably any other system in the country, given where we're located across the northern Plains," Sulik said, noting that Native Americans as a group have some of the biggest health disparities in the country (Eaton, 1/2).

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