Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Dynasaur’

A Personal Story: Can’t Find Affordable Local Dentist – Amy, Chelsea

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Amy and her family moved to Vermont eight years ago, and had three children at the time. “We had private insurance, and it did not include dental. We did not qualify for state dental insurance. We were private-paying for all of our dental work.” Then Amy’s husband lost his job and they could no longer afford $1,500 a month for private health insurance. After this happened they qualified for Dr. Dynasaur for their children. Amy started looking for dentists and found one who took her children on as patients. They saw him for a year and then got a letter saying he no longer accepted Medicaid. Amy found it very difficult to find a new dentist who would take her children, but did eventually find one in the Upper Valley, and most recently she has made use of the mobile dental van that visits local schools. “I do feel like even though it’s difficult to find dental care for my children it’s doable: difficult but doable.”

“As an adult, on the other hand, it’s practically impossible.” Amy couldn’t afford to pay out-of-pocket for her own dental care, so when she qualified for Dr. Dynasaur during her last two pregnancies, she figured she’d use the coverage to address her own dental needs. “I needed two extractions over a four year period. For my initial visit, I had to travel to Plainfield [nearly an hour's drive] … and my first visit took four months to get in.” When Amy had some chronic pain that she needed addressed immediately, she called her former dentist who made an exception and saw her. “I basically begged and pleaded. He did take my Dr. Dynasaur and he was really nice, but it was really clear that it was the only time.”

“The other piece that’s hard for us right now is we have a fourteen year old who needs braces…. I took her to an orthodontist and he said, compared to what she needs, the Medicaid was not going to pay for a lot of it, because it’s partially a cosmetic thing…. I have this fourteen-year old, and she’s going into high school, and I can’t afford braces for her and she needs them.”

“The cost of private dental care is high–prohibitive for me–I am now a single mother. My children and myself, we are covered by state Medicaid. There’s nothing that’s covered for me for dental right now. I need a cleaning, I need dental work done, and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to have that taken care of.” Amy sees dental care accessibility as a nationwide problem that is particularly acute in Vermont. “At one point, when I was the most frustrated, I did call the VT Department of Dentists, and I did explain the situation, that I couldn’t find a provider for my children or for me that was within fifty miles. There was really no help on the other end, other than, ‘Oh well, bring more dentists to Vermont.’

Amy believes compensation for dentists from Medicaid is a big problem. “Obviously, they’re not getting it. And obviously they can’t afford [to treat patients on Medicaid]…. I would guess that more than fifty percent of their customers would come from Medicaid, and if they’re getting paid fifty percent of their costs, I don’t blame them. They can’t volunteer all their efforts. But at the same time, there’s lots of people that are going without.”

A Personal Story: Really Hard to Schedule – Laura, Vershire

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Laura and her husband do not have dental insurance for themselves, but their three kids are covered by Dr. Dynasaur because they live in Vermont. Laura is committed to regular dental care for her family, and she pays for her check ups out of a health savings account that her husband contributes to regularly. Laura’s daughter has braces, which costs the family $290 a month, and with those payments due, she has less money to spend on other preventative care.

Laura tries to keep a regular check up and cleaning schedule for her family, but she says it’s really hard to schedule as far in advance as her dentist requires. For example, six months ago when she made their upcoming appointments she didn’t know her work schedule; now she’s faced with canceling the appointments or missing work. And now that the appointments are imminent, rescheduling will mean a substantial delay: “If I have to change it, I’ll never get in there. And that typically happens. So it doesn’t end up being like every six months, it becomes like, every eight months. It keeps slipping.”

Laura feels fortunate they have the means to pay for the care they need: “Luckily we’re generally healthy and our health savings account doesn’t end up being chewed up too quickly.”

A Personal Story: Won’t Take Teeth for Granted – Sarah, Topsham

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Sarah feels really lucky about her family’s dental care. Living in Vermont, her children have been covered by Dr. Dynasaur since they were young, “I feel like we got in with a really good dentist… and then I started hearing about this shortage.” Sarah used to see the same dentist as her children, but she had a lapse where she didn’t go for three years. When she tried to go back and re-establish regular care, they weren’t accepting new patients, so she had to find another dentist. The lapse in care occurred because Sarah herself was uninsured and paying out of pocket for her care: “Fortunately, one of my wisdom teeth was impacted so I got medical insurance coverage for that.”

Sarah had a few complications from her wisdom teeth removal: some of her soft tissue healed in such a way that it formed a pocket next to her molar, making it very difficult to clean. She got a crown on her molar because of the decay. Sarah was able to pay out of pocket for her crown, and sees this kind of dental work as an inevitable part of growing older. “I have older friends who said, oh – my partner didn’t take care of his dental situation when he was in middle age and now it’s really giving him problems… I’ve had friends telling me, get your teeth taken care of now, because it just gets worse if you leave it.”

Sarah and her family used to qualify for VHAP and Dr. Dynasaur, but now they don’t and now they pay for all dental care out of pocket, which Sarah doesn’t mind: “I really feel like my teeth are worth investing in. I feel really lucky that I inherited these genetically strong teeth and it would be really foolish not to just continue to take care of them. I can’t take them for granted.”

A Personal Story: Beyond Saving – Lori, Strafford

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Lori is a single mother of six, three of whom still live at home with her in Strafford, Vermont. Lori’s children have had dental insurance through Dr. Dynasaur from the time they were young but Lori has not. Although she always had a dentist, she could not afford routine maintenance, “and so I ended up losing seven of my adult chewing teeth—the big ones in the back—because they would just get cavities and they would just go so quickly that…there was no saving them. Even two of them, I went in and said, ‘I don’t care what it costs just save them,’ and they were just beyond saving.” Lori explains that her regular dental maintenance was just always one of the (many) things that was expendable at the end of the month, because her children’s care came first, “and it was expensive. Dental care is just so expensive.”

Lori has tried putting dental work on payment plans, but it usually ends up on a credit card where she ends up paying more for it in interest. “I finally said, I have two chewing teeth left, I cannot afford to loose these, because if I lose these I have nothing left to chew with. I believe now one is cracked and I need to get in there and I haven’t been able to go because there’s no money. (My ex-husband) has now quit paying child support completely.”

Seven years ago, Lori had a tooth abscess and ended up in the emergency room. At the time she did not have a primary care physician so she saw her kids’ pediatrician, who gave her a prescription: “I had no idea how dangerous it was to get a bad tooth infection.” Her face got extremely swollen, but the antibiotics got rid of the infection and then she was able to get the tooth extracted at a local dental clinic.

Lori is grateful for the care her children have received through Dr. Dynasaur: “I am so thankful and so appreciative that Dr. Dynasaur is out there for my children because I don’t know what would happen otherwise. I could not afford to take them for regular routine check-ups. I couldn’t. If they had to have a filling I would find a way but I know that those routine six month cleanings would not happen. And because of them not happening, I know that things would go undiagnosed and unseen.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: On COBRA for the Dental – Jen, Thetford

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Jen and her family had dental insurance until a few months ago when Jen lost her job. Fortunately, since they live in Vermont, Jen was able to get the family on VHAP and Dr. Dynasaur, but her daughter was seeing a pediatric dentist in New Hampshire. “My six year old had significant dental work that was needed and they had referred her to a specialist in Manchester, New Hampshire.” Because the regular family dentist refused to do the work, Jen was faced with the prospect of a seven hundred dollar to several thousand dollar dental bill for her daughter. “So I had to stay on COBRA which was $200 for our family for a month. It’s a lot since I’m totally on unemployment comp right now, which barely pays my mortgage. I’m not sure how I’m going to do next month but I have to do COBRA because I’ve got to stay with this specialist, because now she needs an extraction of four teeth. She just had three significant decays filled. I’m trying to find a Vermont dentist that eventually can take over the kids and I’m not sure what I’ll find.”

A Personal Story: Abscess Causing Headaches – Julie, Strafford

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Julie is a single mom with three kids living in Strafford, Vermont. Her children all have dental coverage through Dr. Dynasaur, but Julie is not covered because she has VHAP, which does not include dental. Julie was put on a waiting list at a local clinic. She had been without dental care for seven years, desperately needed a cleaning, and she felt very fortunate when her primary care physician made a phone call to get her moved up the waiting list.

About a year ago Julie started experiencing headaches which took several months to diagnose. Her doctors thought the problem was in her jaw. They had her sleeping with a mouth guard, and taking different pain medications, but nothing worked. Finally she was able to see her dentist who took one x-ray and found she had an abscess in one of her teeth, which she then had pulled. “If I wasn’t able to go see the dentist, which I did not have money to pay for, it could have gotten really bad…I really lucked out.”

Julie thinks the accessibility provided by local traveling clinics is really important, especially for people who live in the country, many of whom commute for work. “I think dental is really important…People should have more accessible ways to get to dentists and to pay for them because they’re so incredibly expensive…” She points out that you’re supposed to have a physical every year and that most health insurance will cover that, but they won’t cover dental. “You have to pay out of pocket and it’s ridiculously expensive…and so many people don’t go…If you can’t eat right because your teeth hurt or your mouth hurts, how can you take care of yourself?”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Savings Wiped Out – Kate, South Strafford

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Kate, 39, is married with two children and living in South Strafford, Vermont. She takes her children to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, she goes once a year, and her husband goes more often: “He’s spent a lot of time at the dentist in the past few years.” Although the kids have dental insurance through Dr. Dynasaur, Kate and her husband pay for their care out of pocket. Kate’s husband had to have a lot of dental work done over the past three years: “It’s a hit. All his root canal stuff was probably a couple thousand dollars. But I feel like if we’d been paying dental insurance for ten years we would have paid that.” She and her husband paid for his dental work from their savings: “It wipes out the savings, and then we don’t fix the barn.”

A Personal Story: Can’t Afford Preventive Care – Margaret, Corinth

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Margaret lives in Corinth, Vermont. Margaret, her husband Jonathan, and their three children have no dental insurance and they have high deductible health insurance. Annually they spend $12,000 for health insurance, and each person has a $3,500 deductible. In a good year they spend around $15,000 on dental and health care, and in the year with a birth, a broken arm and a broken leg, it was $25,000. Margaret pays for her kids’ dental care entirely out of pocket, “I go to the dentist with my kids and sometimes it’s $600.” She estimates they spend around $2,000 a year on dental care, “we’ve only had a couple of sealants and one cavity…it’s just expensive.”

Margaret and Jonathan are not a high income family: “Our income hovers at the level where you qualify for Dr. Dynasaur…we’re like the poster children for why we need a national healthcare policy. Our income doesn’t qualify us, but that’s before we pay for our healthcare. Once you take away that, we qualify for everything.”

The expense of paying health insurance and her kids dental care has made it difficult for Margaret and her husband to meet their own needs. “Between paying for our high deductible health insurance and paying for our kids to go to the dentist, Jonathan and I have not been to the dentist in three, four years.” Luckily, they don’t have any pressing dental problems, but they would prefer to get the cleanings and check ups they know are important preventative care. “I would like to go to the dentist. I mean, I’m going to get old and then I’m really going to pay for not going now.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Limits of a Limited Budget – Jessica, Chelsea

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Jessica is the mother of three young children living in Chelsea, Vermont. As a single mom, her family is on a limited budget, although she and her children have some dental insurance through VHAP and Dr. Dynasaur. Jessica had a hard time finding a dentist who will take Dr. Dynasaur, but she finally found one in Norwich. She has been satisfied with the situation until the past year or so when gas prices have gotten so high that the drive is becoming a financial hardship.

Jessica tries hard to limit the amount of driving her family does in order to save money—sometimes she’ll drive the kids halfway to meet their father who will take them the rest of the way for their appointments. She says she’s seen a mobile dental clinic bus in Chelsea, but has not been able to find any information about the dates and times it’s open. Jessica herself has not had her teeth cleaned in two years because she can’t afford it, but she’s committed to keeping her kids’ regular cleaning appointments: “When you’ve got small children, you’ve got to be on top of that.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Medicaid Doesn’t Cover It – Robby, Fairlee

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

25-year-old Robby carries a lot of responsibility on her young shoulders; as a mom to four children, she has a lot of small mouths to worry about. Her children are eligible to receive dental care through Vermont’s Dr. Dynasaur program, and Robby knows that teeth are important. But she says that it’s tough to find a dentist who will take Dr. Dynasaur, and when you do, they usually schedule far out in advance. “With so many kids,” she says, “schedules change, someone’s always sick or something – it’s very hard to plan so far in advance.” Robby herself spent 6 months trying to find a provider who would take her Medicaid and then another 2 months waiting for an appointment before finally seeing a dentist this spring. She found out at that appointment that she needs 8 teeth pulled and 3-4 fillings. But because her Medicaid covers less than $500 a year in dental services, what she was able to get was one filling and one cleaning – that was it for the year. With so many expenses, Robby has no other funds to spare for her own teeth; the rest of her substantial dental needs just have to wait.