Posts Tagged ‘Recession’

A Personal Story: Extraction the Only Option – Phil, Vershire

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

In 1997, Phil was self employed and making good money. He had a tooth that needed a root canal and a crown, and he paid $1,200 to get the work done. After five or six years, the tooth went bad and Phil needed to get it fixed. However this time he was unemployed and “basically homeless”, and he could not find anyone willing to do the work. Fortunately, Phil lives in Vermont and had VHAP and went to the local free clinic where he got a voucher for an extraction. “It was really messed up because it was really hurting for awhile and I was babying it and babying it, until it finally finished cracking apart and I went in there. It was really awful, I really had a horrible toothache for like two weeks. Getting them to see me was just almost impossible.” But Phil finally convinced them to move up his appointment, and he had the tooth extracted. “That was one of the best things that ever really happened.”

But it’s frustrating for Phil, because he used to have health and dental insurance coverage through his job, and dentists were also more affordable. Now he feels like his only option is the clinic where he can only be seen for an extraction. “If there’s no real problem with your teeth, they’re not going to do much of anything. You basically have to wait until they’re extractable, which is really awful, and then just have all your teeth pulled out…That’s how our system is working now…Just like it was ages ago…from the 13-1400s until now. If you can’t afford whatever it costs to have someone look at your teeth and get the dental work done, they wait until they’re extractable and then, boom, out they go.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Benefits Chipping Away – Sasha, Hartford

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Sasha, who lives in Hartford, Vermont, has a cafeteria plan for benefits at her work, and her dental insurance option is twice the cost it was just eight years ago. She used to pay for dental insurance, but since the price has doubled (it’s now $50-$60 a month) she finally decided to drop it. She deposited some of the money into a health savings account to help pay for any work she might need done. “As benefits have been chipped away and chipped away, it’s been dental insurance that has taken the biggest hit.”

Eight or nine years ago, when Sasha still had dental insurance, she chipped one of her front teeth, and got it fixed with a temporary bond. Unfortunately, this year she woke up one morning and the bond had broken. “I didn’t plan for it, and because it’s my front tooth I really had to have it fixed.” She paid for the work by putting $350 on a credit card. But what Sasha subsequently learned was that she had a number of other cracks in the tooth, so now she needs something more expensive done: “The next time it’s likely to break a much bigger break, and I’m going to have to have a completely different kind of repair at that point.” It will cost $1,200-$1,300 to get a more permanent fix, but she can’t afford that now: “The only strategy I have to pay for a bill like that is to just start saving in really small increments every month.” The new temporary bond could last two months or it could last eight or nine years, “but all I can do is just put away a little bit of money (each month) because it’s just too expensive to have dental insurance.””

Sasha could choose to enroll in her workplace’s dental plan, but she says you have to be enrolled for a year before they will cover the procedure. Then they will only cover 50%. Financially, it makes more sense for her to start saving now and then pay out of pocket. “Because I have strong teeth, this is unlikely to happen again. But I really feel for people who aren’t lucky…This recession has really put a lot of us in a really tough spot with benefits.”

A Personal Story: Post-Recession Coverage – Kate, Thetford

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Kate and her family moved to Thetford, Vermont, from Boston a year ago. When she was living in Boston, Kate had full dental insurance through her job in education. Her dentist at the time was recommending a lot of procedures for her, including scaling and a steel implant for a 12 year old molar that never came in. Kate moved before getting those procedures, and it was 18 months before she managed to see a dentist in the Upper Valley. Kate was surprised, and somewhat relieved, that her new dentist did not recommend any of these procedures. She suspects they were financially motivated: “It was a reallly really big operation in Boston with probably a lot of overhead. And it was part of a university system that’s self-insured.”

With Kate’s new job, she has fewer dental benefits: “It’s post recession so…a lot of schools scaled back on their employee benefits.” At her new dentist she pays for her work ahead of time, and then the dentist submits the bill to the insurance company and Kate gets reimbursed. “Anything I do have done I’ll feel it in my pocket.” Kate’s coverage has gone from 100% to 50-80%. Fortunately at this point she just needs a few fillings and other basic maintenance. She’s really glad her new dentist is not recommending the procedures the old one did: “I’m glad it’s not reversed.”