No, I swear I’m not making this up (boldface mine):
Funding to restore partial dental coverage for Massachusetts’ 800,000 Medicaid recipients was among provisions included in the budget proposal lawmakers submitted to Governor Deval Patrick on Thursday.
The new coverage — which insures adult recipients’ front teeth only — prompted praise from some health care advocates, but drew pointed criticism from oral health providers on the exclusion of back teeth.
Lawmakers argue that expanding coverage to recipients’ front teeth, which will cost the state about $6 million, will enhance their appearance and enable them to more easily secure employment. The coverage will include the 12 teeth at the front of the mouth — incisors and canines — but excludes molars and premolars.
Restoring full dental coverage to Medicaid recipients would have cost the state roughly $50 million….
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Dr. Richard LoGuercio, a former president of the Massachusetts Dental Society who runs a dental practice in Randolph. “If somebody has a toothache, do they think it distinguishes between a front tooth and a back tooth?”
The majority of cavities, he said, occur in the back teeth. Unable to afford fillings, Medicaid recipients will be forced to have back teeth pulled or to wait until they fall out on their own, risking infection…
The state is required by federal law to offer full dental coverage to children who are Medicaid recipients. However, without the partial coverage, many adults on Medicaid seek dental care from emergency rooms, which costs the taxpayers while failing to address the root of the health problem.
Poor people going to the ER for failures in routine care. Sounds familiar….
Meanwhile, the truly vulnerable get hit the hardest:
A lack of access to oral health care is often the cause of deeper health problems, said Carrie Endicott, director of Elm Brook Place, a rehabilitation center for the mentally ill, where the majority of clients are on Medicaid.
The center has had to switch much of its menu to soft foods because many members are unable to chew vegetables and meats, she said. Without treatment for decaying molars, many of her clients remain unable to eat properly and are in constant pain.
“Their teeth are just disintegrating,” Endicott said.
Governor Patrick might actually have to grow a pair and tax some wealthy people, unless he wants to join the ranks of Rick Scott–feeling bad about screwing over the neediest doesn’t make you any better. It’s still devil take the hindmost as policy.
And for the love of the Intelligent Designer, can we please stop talking about how awesome Massachusetts’ healthcare system is? Being better than states run by batshitloonitarians is damning with faint praise.