Why Isn’t Dental Fully Covered by Medicaid?

Tammy Rojas, after speaking and before being arrested with the PA Poor Peoples’ Campaign on Monday, June 4 during a die-in to represent all of those that we have lost because they could not afford healthcare they needed. Photo Credit: Michael Hodgson

#InMyWords: Tammy Rojas

This past Friday, I celebrated my 41st birthday and don’t know how many more I will have if I don’t get the healthcare I need.

On May 18th, I volunteered to do outreach with Put People First! PA at the Mission of Mercy Clinic which travels throughout the state offering free dental care to those in need. I decided while I was there I would get my teeth checked out since I have been having pain for awhile now and I currently don’t have dental insurance.

Once I went through the registration process and walked into the stadium where the clinic was I was in shock for a moment. My first thought… this is America? The best way I can describe to you what I saw was it reminded me of a medical tent set up they would have in a war zone.

Katrina Raser, organizer and Tammy Rojas (right,) with Put People First! PA at the Mission of Mercy Clinic on May 18th.

The dentist who examined me insisted on X-rays and photos of certain teeth and made it a point to state to the other volunteers that he wanted me to come back to him after X-rays. Once I went back after X-rays I received not only a diagnosis of advanced Periodontal disease but also what felt to me like a death sentence.

You see, two years ago I was told by a dentist that I needed a deep cleaning done because of plaque build up under my gums which occurred due to me being uninsured for many years and being unable to see a dentist regularly for cleanings. The deep cleaning procedure is about $700 and is not covered under Medicaid. So since I couldn’t afford it and Medicaid didn’t cover it I never got it done and because of that I now have advanced periodontal disease.

They pulled four teeth and made it very clear to me that I MUST get that deep cleaning done or my condition will worsen. I will not only continue to lose teeth but could develop other health issues as well because periodontal disease can cause other health issues such as heart disease, respiratory disease or even cause a stroke.

We will no longer accept the lie that our teeth are a separate part of our body that have nothing to do with our overall health!

My story is similar to many others in this nation which is why I joined Put People First! PA and the Poor People’s Campaign, things MUST change NOW!

We need Universal healthcare now.There is no reason why in the richest country in the world, we should suffer or die simply because we lack the funds for the care we need.

In Pennsylvania, the adult dental benefit in Medicaid was cut in 2011 [Former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett reduced Pennsylvania’s 2 million adult Medicaid patients to basic dental care — eliminating root canals, periodontal disease work and limiting the number of dentures a patient can receive. The plan now covers little more than cleanings, fillings — and extractions. This reduction was in accordance with an Obama administration guidance to states about balancing the cost of Medicaid expansion by cutting comprehensive dental benefits.]

We need a comprehensive audit dental benefit in Medicaid and we are calling on our elected officials, the administration and the Governor to restore it today.

Healthcare is a Human Right. It is not a privilege.

It’s time the powers that be stop listening to their donors and START listening to the people, for we will not back down nor give up until Healthcare is a Right in Pennsylvania.

Top donors from the Health Insurance Industry to Pennsylvania Elected Officials (notice both Republican and Democratic Leadership.) Source: Follow the Money.org

Auditing of Pennsylvania:

In addition to uplifting the voices of those most affected, the Pennsylvania Poor People’s Campaign is auditing Pennsylvania 50 years after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged the evils of racism, militarism, and poverty, assessing what the conditions of poverty look like in our state.

Research shows that Pennsylvanians are increasingly faring worse than half the nation in key health indicators. This happens at a time when an extractive economy driven by fossil fuel corporations rip apart the earth for minerals and pharmaceutical companies profit-off people’s bodies.

Pennsylvanians’ life expectancy sits right near the national average of 78.5 years of age, 28th overall. Yet, life expectancy varies across the state based on where you live, your income, and your race.

All of this happens while our federal officials and corporate health providers play roulette with our healthcare system. Over 700,000 Pennsylvanians still remain without insurance, though it is at its lowest rate in history due to Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act.

Over 1 million Pennsylvania residents benefited from the Medicaid expansion alone. However, the repeal of the individual mandate is set to increase premiums for all residents — by an average of $876. 500,000 more people are expected to become uninsured.

What’s more, the private insurance system does not guarantee people access to care. Deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs can amount to thousands of dollars, keeping people from going to the doctor and filling prescriptions. Critical forms of care like dental, mental health, and reproductive care are often poorly covered, if at all.

Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that Pennsylvanians were more likely to skip health or dental care, fail to fill prescriptions and rely on home remedies because of cost compared to the rest of the nation. Furthermore, PA residents have a harder time paying medical bills compared to the nation.

PA-PPC: A National Call for Moral Revival is a movement led by the poor, demanding an end to poverty, racism, militarism & ecological devastation.

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