Photo: Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore SunHeather and Eli Powell
A routine dental checkup for a Baltimore 4-year-old turned into a health care odyssey for his mother.
It all began when a dentist told Heather Powell that her son Eli had several cavities, and would need to go under general anesthesia to have eight crowns placed on his back teeth. Continue reading
Organizers of free megaclinics at city stadiums and rural fairgrounds frequently describe their efforts as “Band-Aid” solutions to a much deeper problem with access to health services in many communities.
The shortage of oral health providers in poor and isolated areas is often severe, for example. The need for dental care tops the list of many of the people seeking care. Continue reading
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in February that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners lacked the authority to regulate teeth-whitening businesses, experts observed that the decision might have impact far beyond the world of dentistry.
Licensing boards regulate hundreds of occupations across the country, everything from medicine and law to bee-keeping and fortune telling. Often the boards are comprised of members of the profession they are regulating. And as in the North Carolina case, there are times when these regulatory bodies run afoul of federal antitrust laws intended to ensure consumer choice and greater access to services. Continue reading
In a recent story for the Los Angeles Daily News, reporter Susan Abram informed readers that once again, a city sports arena was being transformed into a massive health clinic, and once again, hundreds of dentists, optometrists, nurses and other volunteers were preparing to offer free care to people in need.
This was not the first time Abram had covered a Los Angeles “megaclinic.” But she managed to skillfully couple her reporting on past events with insights into the nation’s evolving health care system to bring a new angle to this year’s story:
“…the services offered will be different compared to six years ago, when a similar event was first held at the Los Angeles Forum,” Abram wrote. “Back then, images of these megaclinics held nationwide and primarily in rural settings became symbolic of the fractured health care system before reform and the lengths many Americans would go for much needed medical and dental care. … Now, as the provisions under the Affordable Care Act take hold and more people are insured for primary care, some services at the upcoming large-scale clinic have changed while others have been expanded.”
In this Q & A, Abram reflects on the things she has learned covering urban “megaclinics” over the years. And she shares some wisdom with fellow reporters on returning to an old story with new eyes.
In an Oct. 13 story, Susan Abram informed readers of the Los Angeles Daily News that a city sports arena was being transformed into a massive health clinic for four days. Hundreds of dentists, optometrists, nurses and other volunteers would offer free care to people in need.
This was not the first so-called “megaclinic” to come to the Los Angeles Sports Arena – and not the first time Abram had written about one. The reporter used her experience of past clinics, and insights into the nation’s evolving health care system, to bring a new and interesting angle to her story: Continue reading
Locating both dental and medical providers at a community health center can better ensure that low-income patients get the oral health services they need, in part by enabling these providers to more easily coordinate patient-centered care.
Yet by these measures, many clinics in California’s safety net system are falling short. Only one third of the state’s community health centers offer dental care, a team from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) has found.
“Co-location of dental providers in primary care settings can greatly improve accessibility of dental care in several ways,” the team said in a paper published in the September issue of CHPR’s Health Policy Brief. “The co-location model can enable patients to obtain more than one service in a single trip. It can also make it easier for medical providers to screen and refer high-risk patients to dentists who will see them and allow medical and dental providers to easily collaborate case management.”
Equipping and staffing clinics to offer dental care requires additional spending but co-location is an important step to consider, particularly in communities facing shortages of Medicaid dental providers, according to the paper. “The decision by organizations co-locate is likely to have a significant and positive impact on access to dental care and improved oral health of the population,” the study’s authors concluded. Continue reading
More American children are obtaining dental services now than a decade ago. What’s more, a longstanding gap in dental visits has narrowed between publicly- and privately-insured children, according to a new state-by-state analysis of dental utilization trends from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute (HPI).
The picture is far different for adults, who at all income levels are making fewer trips to the dentist. Adults with private coverage remain far more likely to get care than those with Medicaid dental benefits, the study found. Continue reading
The use of snuff and other smokeless tobacco products by American high school students is up significantly, even among high school athletes typically more inclined than their peers to be health conscious, federal health officials say.
In fact, athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their non-athlete classmates, according to a recently published study. Continue reading
Reporter Tonya Alanez covers the crime beat for the Sun Sentinel, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Just the same, there are times when her beat leads her to health care stories. Last month, she filed a story (site registration required) that offered a troubling look at dentistry in South Florida. She reported on a state investigation into two dentists suspected of fraudulently billing Medicaid for dentures and extractions that frail and elderly patients may not have needed – or even received.
It wasn’t her first assignment at the intersection of dentistry and crime. A couple of summers ago, she took a look at the problem of unlicensed dentists and their unlucky victims.
In a new Q&A, Alanez tells us more about her work reporting on crime and health care. She also shares a little wisdom for health care reporters who may want to do more writing with an eye toward crime.
Even as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extends public and private health benefits to millions of Americans, the new beneficiaries may still face challenges finding the services they need.
As we earlier reported, poor adults newly covered thanks to Medicaid expansions could continue to lack dental care in a number of states, according to a recent study published in Health Affairs.
But now there is money in the nation’s health care reform law to help address such shortages.
Last week, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced almost $500 million in new ACA funding to assist public and private nonprofit health centers across the country to provide more primary care to their communities.
The funding includes roughly $350 million in awards that will enable 1,184 centers to increase dental, medical, behavioral, pharmacy and vision services. Another $150 million is targeted to 160 centers with plans to renovate or enlarge their facilities in order to see more patients or offer more services.
“These awards will give 1.4 million more Americans across every state access to comprehensive quality health care,” said Burwell in her September 15 announcement. Continue reading