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. Continue reading
An estimated 700 species of microbes thrive within the unique ecological niches found within the human mouth, including the hard surfaces of the teeth, soft linings of cheeks and pockets of the gums.
They live in complex communities, and when healthy, they co-exist in an intricate balance. But sometimes that equilibrium gets upset. Continue reading
A state’s oral health status represents an interesting indicator of the overall health and economic well-being of its people. On a personal and population level, oral health is not achieved in a vacuum.
Many factors play a role in ensuring the good oral health, from the availability and cost of professional dental services to access to nutritious food and optimally fluoridated water. Shortages of dental providers, high rates of smoking and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption can take a toll. So, can the lack public or private dental benefits, water fluoridation and school sealant programs. Continue reading
Registered dietician, syndicated radio host and self-described “investigative nutritionist” Melinda Hemmelgarn has given a lot of thought lately to dental care and oral health. A recent episode of her public radio show, Food Sleuth, features an interview with Jane Grover, a dentist and director of the American Dental Association’s Council on Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.
In the interview, Hemmelgarn and Grover also discussed useful tips for maintaining oral health including good brushing habits and the foods that are more harmful to teeth. Continue reading
Trying to help her sister Veronika, who is disabled, with a dental emergency, Elizabeth Piatt found herself negotiating a labyrinth of personal feelings and Medicaid paperwork. The job of getting Veronika the care she needed was fraught with challenges. Piatt emerged from the experience with new insights into the Medicaid system that serves America’s poor, and a new sense of compassion for the patients who struggle within that system.
Piatt, an assistant professor and chair of the Sociology Department at Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio, also came out of the experience convinced of the need for a better network of health navigators to help Medicaid patients find care and services.
Piatt shared the story of her journey in a piece entitled “Navigating Veronika: How Access, Knowledge and Attitudes Shaped My Sister’s Care” that was featured in February’s Health Affairs.
She shares further insights, as well as some tips on exploring a personal story for its wider lessons, in this AHCJ Q&A.
After a hint from her own dentist, Sheila Hagar started looking into concerns about the rising numbers of Medicaid kids getting braces in Washington. Hagar, who is medical and social services reporter for the Union-Bulletin, in Walla Walla, sought sources and found statistics that made her jaw drop.
“We should be taking care of people who really have a need,” a frustrated Walla Walla orthodontist, Thomas Utt, D.D.S., told her. “While his office – Walla Walla Orthodontics – is authorized to treat Medicaid-eligible children with braces,” Hagar wrote, “Utt grits his teeth at what he sees as misuse of funds and a lack of clarity over just what ‘medically necessary’ means when it comes to correcting kids’ teeth.”
Here, Hagar tells us more about how she tackled the reporting that led to her July 5 package “State Foots Skyrocketing $27 Million Bill for Braces” and what she is learning about orthodontic benefits under Medicaid. She also shares some wisdom on what to do when no one is returning your calls on an uncomfortable subject. Read how she did her reporting.