BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) A new national report says Louisiana has one of the worst dentist shortages in the nation.

The analysis, released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts, comes as the state Department of Health and Hospitals is slashing reimbursement rates paid to dentists through the Medicaid program with the July 1 start of the new budget year.

Pew says more than 24 percent of Louisiana's population is underserved by dentists and living in a dental shortage area, second only to Mississippi.

Dentists say the planned 3 percent cut to their Medicaid rates will shrink services to the poor and worsen access.

DHH says the reimbursement rates still remain higher than neighboring states for most dental services, even with the cut. But those neighboring states are listed by Pew as high shortage areas.

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