Posts Tagged ‘Self-employed’

A Personal Story: My Mouth My Body – Tracy, Lyme

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Tracy is 51 years old and lives in Lyme, New Hampshire. Here is her story:

“A number of years ago I fell while rollerblading.  I landed with my full weight on my chin, crushing 5 teeth.  Thankfully I did not break my jaw or get a concussion.  But my mouth was literally in shards.  I was taken to the emergency room at DHMC where they did stitch up the gash in my chin.  But they were unsure of the rest of my mouth.  There is an oral surgeon at Hitchcock but he was in surgery and could not see me.  So I was sent to my dentist who then referred me to an oral surgery center.  Two days later I was finally able to see the oral surgeon.  The teeth needed to be extricated and I then needed bone implanted to repair damage to make enough room for the process to begin replacing the lost teeth with implants.  The entire process took 3 years.  I now have most of the work completed but for a cracked tooth that will eventually need to be replaced.

Cost: Approximately $22,000.  Here is the rub.  According to my Health Insurance provider, all of it could/would have been covered had I had surgery within 24 hrs of the accident.  Which was impossible because there were no surgeons available.

Apparently one’s mouth is not considered to be a part of one’s body.

I am self-employed, and at the time was just barely able to pay for health insurance, let alone any dental.  I have since taken a job as a part time special education aide to receive medical and dental insurance.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Dipping Into Retirement for Teeth – Danielle, West Hartford

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Danielle and her husband are both self-employed and living in West Hartford, Vermont. The only dental insurance available to them pays for cleanings but doesn’t cover the bigger work that she needs to get done. Whenever she goes to the dentist, the dentist will usually find something big and give Danielle a proposal of how and when the work should be done. It usually involves more than one tooth and costs two to three thousand dollars. “It’s a little overwhelming,” says Danielle. She usually puts the work on a payment plan with zero percent interest, but “it still feels like you’re going into debt for your teeth.” At times she has cashed in her retirement money to pay for dental work.

Over the past ten years, Danielle guesses she has spent over ten thousand dollars on dental work. In fact, there was one tooth alone that probably cost that much: She had a root canal, another procedure, ended up having the tooth pulled, two bridges made, and finally ended up with an implant with a crown. At one point, her sister remarked to her: “You can get dentures a lot cheaper.”

Right now Danielle’s husband has a cracked tooth that he has delayed work on for the past year. He’s mindful of it when he eats, but it will probably cost four thousand dollars for an implant if the tooth breaks off. Danielle’s husband also needs to get hearing aids, and they have decided that his hearing is more important than the tooth at the moment. But it’s a difficult decision: “How do you choose between hearing aids and a cracked tooth?”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

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: Chipping Away at the Issues – Jesse, Enfield

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Jesse lives in Enfield, New Hampshire. This is his story:

Fonda’s son Jesse was on her dental insurance until he was 18 years old. When he was around 21, he had a bicycle accident and he broke his jaw. His teeth were never the same after that. He owned his own business at the time, and he was too old to be on Fonda’s dental plan and couldn’t afford his own, so he didn’t have any dental insurance. A few years later, he also ended up with impacted wisdom teeth. The work he needed done amounted to thousands of dollars; money he just didn’t have. For five years he suffered with the pain. It wasn’t until he closed his own business and went to work for someone else that he finally had dental insurance again. Now he’s chipping away at his dental issues, fixing things one at a time, hoping to save as many of his teeth as is possible.

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Weighing Priorities – Rob, Thetford

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Rob is a self-employed builder and painter in Thetford, Vermont. A few years ago he needed a crown done but couldn’t afford it. He was able to work out a deal with his dentist where they exchanged services: the dentist put on the crown, and Rob did work for the dentist.

Rob is trying hard not to take on debt and is careful about deciding to get dental work done: “There’s no way I can afford to come in and spend a couple thousand dollars on my teeth right away. So I have to weigh things and decide how pertinent (the dental work) is at the time. Is it an emergency? Do I need to have it done?”

Rob’s daughter needed braces and was at the age where she had to have the work done. Unfortunately, he had to take on debt for that work and now pays a set amount each month: “Can I afford it? It’s really hard-everything’s hard right now because of the economy being the way that it is. But somehow, money seems to get there for it.” In the summer the payments are easier because that’s the season where Rob tends to have more work, in the winter it’s hard to predict what will happen. “You have to make priorities, and priorities are food, shelter, stuff like that. There’s a lot of people that have to look at that piece right now.”

A Personal Story: Time-Bomb Tooth – Bob, Strafford

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Bob, 52, is self employed, married with one child, living in Vermont, and has never had dental insurance. He doesn’t think it’s worth the investment: “It never seems to really cover the bills…I just pay as I go.” Bob sees his dentist regularly, twice a year. At his last visit he had a crown put on one of his teeth, and the dentist noticed another tooth with a crack. The dentist suggested Bob get another crown before the tooth shatters in some unexpected place where he won’t be able to get immediate dental help. “I can’t afford to put a crown in so I’m waiting until the tooth self-destructs,” Bob explains. He considers the procedure to be somewhat elective, but at the same time,”kind of a time bomb,” and says, “It’s hard to come up with 1,200 bucks to get the crown done. It’s just one of those things-there’s just always something else to spend the money on.”

A Personal Story: Access to and Quality of Care – Helen, Woodstock

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Helen lives in Woodstock, Vermont. This is her story:

When I moved to Vermont 13 years ago, I was starting a new business as an independent consultant, and I wasn’t able to afford health insurance, much less dental insurance. I chose a dentist from the phone book and started to get yearly checkups and do whatever work needed to be done, as I had the money to do it. When I started to feel a dull, aching pain in my upper jaw around an area where I’d had a root canal prior to arriving in VT, I mentioned it to my new dentist. She didn’t see anything and ultimately made me feel that I was imagining the discomfort. The pain was beginning to affect my life – it was causing headaches and destroying my concentration. I decided to change dentists and learned that, indeed, I was not imagining my discomfort – I had an infection at the site of my former root canal. In addition, the work of my first dentist in VT had been incomplete and non-lasting. I now had over $10,000 of work to do to fix what she had done and to address the dental issues she had neglected to address. I didn’t have that kind of money. Luckily, my new dentist worked out a financial plan with me and I also learned that if I took care of all of the work within one year, I would not only have a happier, healthier mouth, I could also report the expense on my tax return and receive some tax relief. I saved and put some of the work on my credit card and was able, ultimately, to fix everything in that single year.

I feel fortunate to have made it through that time – much lighter in my pocket, but with my health in check. I have an increased confidence in my ability to gauge if something is “wrong” with me or not, and I made an important decision to make sure my health care professionals listen to me. If only I’d had dental insurance.