Oral care access problems highlighted in California news collaborative project

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.

Photo: A. Currell via Flickr

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, California has employed Medicaid expansion and the state health insurance marketplace – Covered California – to dramatically increase health care coverage. Yet, in spite of such efforts roughly 3 million state residents remain medically uninsured. Even more – an estimated 5.2 million Californians – are dentally uninsured.

In communities throughout the state, retirees and workers at small businesses are facing particular challenges in finding dental services, reported Yesenia Amaro of The Fresno Bee and Nicole Hayden of the (Palm Springs) Desert Sun in a recent story.

“The severe pain struck when Christian Ortega’s lower left molars decayed, causing one molar to break,” they wrote. “The pain was so bad that one day he had to skip his shift as a cook.”

Yesenia Amaro

Yesenia Amaro

Amaro and Hayden’s piece is one of more than two dozen stories included in a comprehensive reporting project called Uncovered California. The venture led by the University of Southern California Center for Health Journalism News Collaborative offers print and broadcast journalists the opportunity to reach across newsroom walls to report on the plight of the state’s uninsured.

In this new Q and A, Amaro offers insights into her coverage of dentally-uninsured Californians and her participation in the Uncovered California project. She also shares some wisdom with colleagues on how to explore the shortage of dental coverage in their communities.

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