A Personal Story: Family Access – Robin, Lebanon

Robin is a 33 year old single mom who lives in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Robin and her children have New Hampshire state Medicaid insurance, which is limited in the dental care it covers for kids and does not meet Robin’s family’s needs. Robin’s eldest daughter just had three cavities filled, only two of which were covered by her insurance. It’s especially frustrating for Robin that her dentist claims her daughter is not taking care of her teeth, when, in reality, her daughter’s decay is due to medication she is taking. Robin has Crohn’s disease, and her daughter has irritable bowel syndrome, which will likely turn into Crohn’s. She explains: “I’m already facing probably getting dentures because I’ve been on my medication for Crohn’s for the last ten years … My kids do not do soda, they do not do candy, she’s gluten-free. It’s just the medication makes your teeth bad, so they’re soft, so she’s had to get a couple fillings. And they pretty much tell me it’s preventive care that I’m not doing correctly, and that’s not it at all. So they cover two cleanings a year and two fillings and that’s pretty much where it stops and they do not help with braces at all whatsoever. So she’s not getting braces because I can’t afford them.”

To make matters worse, Robin’s regular dentist has just informed her that he is no longer accepting Medicaid payments as of January of 2012. Robin’s family can still go, and her bill will be a sliding scale fee based on her income, but she doesn’t have the additional money in her budget right now, so she’ll be looking for a different provider.

Robin works with families who primarily have Medicaid as their insurance, so she knows how hard it is to find a dentist in her area who will accept Medicaid patients. A dentist in Vermont she regularly refers families to just told her he’s full and has met his quota for Medicaid patients. Some of the families she works with go to Concord, New Hampshire, for their dental care. “For some of these families that’s a big hardship because a couple of my families don’t have a vehicle … so it’s them trying to find a ride and then of course it’s during the day and then the kids lose out on a day of school.” Some of Robin’s families have had to make repeated trips to Concord, because a tooth wasn’t filled correctly the first time, and it was bothering the child, and they had to go back to get it fixed. “The parents that do have vehicles … it’s just extra gas money that they don’t have.”

Lack of access to affordable dental care is a problem for the adults as well as the kids. “It’s hard for the parents. Because a lot of them get disability or Medicaid and they don’t have the dental services … a lot of my parents are just literally pulling their teeth out and they’re just going without. One of my parents just did that because she can’t afford the dentures. Her teeth were really bad, and she just now is toothless and she just lives that way. It’s hard. It’s very hard.”


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