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HL20: Jeffrey A. Parker—Making Margin While Serving the Poor

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, January 17, 2014

The original dental center was founded in Anniston, Ala., by the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama to provide dental care to a subset of the population that private practice dentists frequently refused to see because of low reimbursement—kids in that county eligible for or on Medicaid. Parker was brought on to grow it. And grow it he did.

Now, after eight years of steady growth, the still-nonprofit company employs 250 people, has 34 straight quarters of patient growth, boasts 14 clinics statewide (of which five also have optical capabilities), and is serving as a model for states nationwide seeking to improve dental (and now optical) care for their economically disadvantaged population. Last year, the Sarrell Dental and Eye Centers (named for the founder, who died in 2012) had 135,000 dental visits and 9,000 optical visits for what had been a severely underserved population.

"Six of 10 Medicaid eligible children in this country cannot see a dentist," Parker says, explaining that many dentists don't take Medicaid patients because they do not reimburse at the same level as private insurers or a cash-paying patient.

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