Health Care Reform: We’ve Only Just Begun

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    So, our country now has a new health reform program in place. (That is, barring the Supreme Court agreeing with Kookinelli and overturning legislation passed by a majority of the people’s representatives. After all, they “elected” a president in 2000, so why not become the legislative branch, as well?)

    Do we now rest on our laurels, saying, “That’s one problem solved”? Instead, let’s consider this statistic: It is estimated that more than 100 million Americans lack any dental insurance coverage, and that estimate was made before the “Great Bush Recession.”

    The extent of the problem of poor dental health in this nation is apparent in free clinics like the recent one held in Wise County. The majority of the 2,400 or so patients who came to the clinic in Wise needed to see a dentist. They were willing to wait days for the clinic to open, many sleeping in tents or in their cars.

    While poor children on Medicaid are able to get dental care, their parents are not. The Washington Post told the story of one such person, Lucinda Honaker.

    “I just can’t afford it. The kids have got Medicaid, but no one will see [my husband and me],” Honaker said. Her husband, Charles, has diabetes and finds it almost impossible to eat the diet he is supposed to with his bad teeth. Since the family subsists on $800 a month take-home income, paying for dental care is impossible.

    Today’s Washington Post told other horror stories about the lack of basic dental care in the United States for perhaps one-third of our population, including the “least among us” who gathered in Wise.

    Charles Fogarty, 42, who is a disabled forestry worker, was at the clinic, grateful for the care he received. He said that he once pulled out one of his infected teeth with a pair of pliers.”I’ve had a pretty rough life,” he said.

    The clinic’s volunteers also made dentures for many of the patients. One was Teresa Casey, 48, who had no teeth left after battling cancer and degenerative bone disease. At last year’s clinic, Casey had the broken stumps of her teeth extracted, but she had no way to get further assistance except to wait for the next year’s free clinic. This year, she finally got dentures.

    Wallace Huff, a dentist from Blacksburg who has volunteered for ten years at the Wise clinic, told the Post, “I came here because people need help desperately. A lot of people are hopeless. Their teeth are beyond what we can restore.”

    As his eyes filled with tears, Huff quietly said, “We cannot leave these people in pain.”

    I wonder something: Has our ayatollah-attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, thought of anything lately except his political future? Has he ever mingled with laid-off workers who have lost health insurance? Has he ever met a disabled man with rotting teeth and no resources to get help. Does he even care about the consequences if he actually manages to derail the first halting steps this nation has taken toward making health care – and someday, please God, dental and vision care – available, regardless of income, job status, preexisting conditions? I doubt it.

    Matthew 25: 35-40.

    • teacherken

      the weekend before last. I worked with both Terry and Wallie, and several other dentists as well.  I remember some of the people mentioned in the story, and visible in the photos that accompany the post article, which you can see  here

      FYI interest –  there is a dental only event by Virginia Dental association at the medical campus of NVCC in March.  I volunteered there last year and two of my students came with me.

      Also relevant, tomorrow there is a free health clinic through the group with which Keith Olbermann has been working at the Convention center.

      The needs, including dental, are not limited to Appalachia.

      In October there is another joint RAM-MOM event in Appalachia, this time in Grundy.  It is in Buchanan County, which has 26,000 people the lowest income level in the Commonwealth and last year had 4 practicing dentists 3 of whom were past retirement age.

    • libra

      mournful bells… Our Free Clinic cannot accept Medicaid recipients, not even for dental care which, as you point out, adults do not get through Medicaid.

      But we’re working on it, I’ve been told. So, fingers crossed…