Listeners hear from patients, dentists at charity dental clinic

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Katie Hiler

Katie Hiler

KBIA Mid-Missouri Public Radio listeners were recently offered an insightful report on the problems poor adults in the state have been facing in getting dental care.

Nearly a decade ago, Missouri eliminated funding for all Medicaid beneficiaries except children, pregnant women and the disabled.

The move “left a lot of people with only bad options,” reporter Katie Hiler explained, borrowing a quote from the film “Argo.”

To illustrate the point, Hiler invited her audience along on a visit to a rare charity clinic called Smiles of Hope, run out of a converted church attic. At the clinic, dentist William Kane spoke of his efforts to meet the overwhelming need for services such as emergency extractions.

Hiler ended her report with some news. A decision by the Missouri legislature to restore funding for adult dental care under Medicaid is expected to help to give some poor Missourians more options, she observed.

Yet at the same time, 300,000 low-income adults who would qualify for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are at this point shut out because of the state’s refusal to expand the program.

“Which means,” Hiler noted in closing, “Smiles of Hope isn’t going anywhere.”

In a Q&A for AHCJ, Hiler offers some thoughts on what got her started on this story and how her work unfolded. She also shares some wisdom on what it takes to make a radio story come alive.

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