Alabamans Worried About the Present and Future State of Dental Coverage

Dental instruments and tools in a dentists officeCarolyn Thompson is 81 years old and a retired nurse, but she can’t exactly smile about those achievements. Thompson needs dentures to make up for her missing bottom teeth, but like many seniors in her situation, she can’t afford them because Medicare won’t cover the procedure.

“When I was working I always took care of my teeth, but in the last couple of years I don’t have the money to pay for it,” she said to Kaiser Health News.

Thompson isn’t alone in her situation. Approximately 47.2% of adults over 30 are suffering from some form of periodontal disease, but only 12% of Americans over 65 have dental insurance. Medicare rarely offers coverage for dental procedures, and dental benefits weren’t even recognized as an important health care feature when Medicare was created in 1965.

“The fact that one of our most vulnerable populations faces more barriers in accessing dental services than any other state in the nation is unacceptable,” said Chris Haag, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Now, new research shows that untreated dental issues can exacerbate other health problems as well. This is why a nonprofit group is working toward an ambitious goal of dental coverage under Medicare for all American seniors.

In a post-election America where repealing Obamacare is one of President Donald Trump’s biggest goals, it seems like a near-impossible task, but the Santa Fe Group is determined to get it done. The organization has its cross-hairs on the 2020 election. Their goal is to gain momentum in the next two years so that every major candidate will be talking about it come the next election cycle.

But the Santa Fe Group isn’t the only organization looking to the next election. In fact, many Americans fear for their dental coverage outside of Medicare. As more details come to light about the proposed plans to repeal Obamacare, dental coverage for adults and even for children is on a slippery slope.

Nearly two dozen rural hospitals have shut down since 2013, and many of them were in charge of fulfilling the 10 essential benefits that Obamacare set forth when it was implemented. One of those benefits was pediatric dental care.

Meanwhile, this apprehension about a lack of pediatric dental care coverage comes as new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health proves just how crucial this early care is to a child’s health. The research suggests that the more preventative dental care children receive early in life — often through Medicaid — the more likely they are to receive dental care later in life, too.

There is no conclusive data that suggests early dental care is linked to more minor issues with teeth, but the rate of children with cavities under the age of five is increasing. Many Americans would argue that as reason enough to keep pediatric dental care covered under a health care plan.

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