Opinion Nuggets; Dental Care Is Serious Issue for Poor

The Florida Times Union, August 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Opinion Nuggets; Dental Care Is Serious Issue for Poor


Dental issues continue to plague America's poor children, who are likely to have serious health issues for a lifetime.

Former Surgeon General David Satcher says what this page has noted, there just aren't enough dentists treating low-income children at the unrealistically low reimbursement rates.

Just 20 percent of all practicing dentists accept Medicaid patients, reports a news release from the Morehouse School of Medicine. For children younger than age 5, it's much worse.

There is a shortage of about 10,000 dentists nationwide, reports the Health Resources Services Administration.

Some states have set up dental versions of physician assistants to cope with the need. Called dental therapists, they are practicing in Alaska and Minnesota, providing preventive and routine care. Connecticut and Oregon are launching pilot projects.

The need is great:

- 37 percent of African-American children and 41 percent of Hispanic children have untreated tooth decay; 25 percent of white children.

- More than one-third of all poor children ages 2 to 9 have untreated cavities.

These issues often turn up in school where children coping with dental issues are stressed from focusing on their classes.

HEALTH CARE'S SLOW EVOLUTION

The first major proposal for heath care in the United States took place in 1915, reported the New England Journal of Medicine. The proposal followed practices in Germany and England.

The campaign failed from opposition from business and the insurance industry, bad timing due to the entry into World War I and the connection with European nations.

Presidents Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton made proposals for universal health care and failed.

Employer-sponsored health insurance grew in the 1940s as one way to reward workers when wages were frozen during World War II. The federal government subsidized it by excluding from taxable income the premium payments made on behalf of the workers.

We do have federally mandated coverage in certain areas: Health insurance subsidies were added for pregnant women, children, people with disabilities and people with end-stage renal disease.

Yet the number of Americans without health insurance grew from 31 million in 1987 to 50 million in 2010.

Even with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured will remain at about 30 million in a decade.

The big challenge, however, which still hasn't been adequately addressed, is the cost of health care.

Costs will increase as more Americans become eligible for Medicare and as Medicaid is expanded. As reported by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, nearly 1 in 3 American children are covered by Medicaid and related program.

And Medicaid is the largest single payer of long-term nursing home care. …

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