Posts Tagged ‘Unemployment’

A Personal Story: No Phone, No Gas, No Dentist – Leslie, Lebanon

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Leslie has spent 2 years out of work due to health issues and has been living on $500 a month for the past year. Nutritional deficiencies over the last few years have weakened her teeth so that now many of them have nerve damage and are falling out. She has no insurance for herself and so has been unable to address any of these issues. She has no income to cover the phone minutes to call dentists or the gas to drive to visit them in person.

A year and a half ago, Leslie’s daughter had an accident in school where she was hit in the face by a basketball and chipped her new adult tooth. Her daughter is covered by a dental insurance plan through her father, who lives further south in New Hampshire, as well as by Medicaid, but many of the prescriptions she needed for this accident weren’t covered and the root canal she needed meant that they still owed $450. “Even with insurance you can’t get in anywhere to get dental care…There are a couple of different children’s dentists around the Upper Valley but they aren’t taking new patients…” Or they don’t take Medicaid. Now her daughter needs orthodontia work, but she doesn’t have the money to start looking into addressing it.

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: NH School Nurse Sees Problems in Kid’s Teeth – Norwich

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Sylvia is in her 60s, lives in Norwich, Vermont, and works as a school nurse in New Hampshire. “We see a lot of kids coming in with just completely rotted out teeth.” She explains that it’s sometimes difficult to persuade parents in low-income families to participate in free dental care programs. “It’s really hard to convince that group that not only are they eligible, but that it isn’t a hand-out . . . Sometimes they’re afraid to get linked into the system, because a lot of these [dental care] groups say, well, we’ll give it to you for free but then there’s always some cost, even if the cost is, we need to see you four times a year so you need to get here. That’s a huge cost to a lot of people who are figuring out every day any place they can get to where they could possibly work for a day.”

Sylvia believes providing dental care through the schools is the best way to ensure access. There used to be a dental van that provided care to students at her school, but it has stopped. She remembers it being very successful. “The whole thing came here and the kids were already at school, so there wasn’t any cost [to the parents] . . . I don’t know what un-did that program . . . I don’t know whether they were asked by the state to stop, or whether something happened and there was some kind of a lawsuit.”

The van will be back, but as Sylvia understands it, only to provide cleanings and education. While she thinks that’s valuable, she also thinks it’s not enough: “If we’re seeing a fair number of kids coming with already serious problems, we’ve got to have treatment.”


A Personal Story: A Year and a Half of Pain – Paula, South Royalton

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

When Paula moved to South Royalton, Vermont, because she had no job she was on Medicaid. She had a cap on her left rear molar which had cracked, but Medicaid did not cover any dental for her, even what seemed to her to be an emergency. She had to wait until she got a job, and then she had to wait nine months before the insurance kicked in to go get her tooth looked at. The first appointment was just an assessment, and she was referred to a different dentist where she had to wait again to get an appointment. “We were probably about a year and a half out where I was going with nothing on that tooth, dealing with the pain and the hot/cold sensitivity. When I finally got it taken care of by the dentist he said the gum was really worn down and damaged because it didn’t have the tooth protecting it and the surface there. So he actually had a difficult time and it was not the ideal crown that he put on…. It wasn’t a perfect fit.”

With the dental insurance from her new job, Paula could now afford dental care, but still found it difficult to get the care she needed because there were so few dentists, she still could not get on a regular six month schedule. It seemed like she could never schedule an appointment when she wasn’t working.

After she had her baby and wasn’t working, Paula called around to quite a few dentists because she was having pain in her lower left molar again. She found a dentist who was able to see her in the weeks before her insurance from her job ran out. Unfortunately, he ended up canceling the appointment, so although she got her teeth cleaned, Paula was not able to get her other concerns addressed. So now it’s been over a year since Paula has been to the dentist, she has no dental insurance and can’t afford to pay out of pocket.

A Personal Story: Broken Teeth & Unemployed – Zack, Claremont

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Zach is 23 and lives in Claremont, New Hampshire. He is currently unemployed and without dental insurance. “I have some of the older style fillings that are in my mouth that have fallen out. I have broken teeth… I have tried to get help for them. I’ve been to the ER a couple of times because of the pain… I’ve tried calling different dental places and they either want cash up front or they need insurance. A lot of them don’t do sliding scale or anything like that, it’s like a flat rate and you need to have that money when you walk in. I just don’t have that money, I’m unemployed.”

Zach says that the initial visit for a broken tooth costs over $300 just for the x-rays and an exam. Then, to have the tooth extracted it costs over $400. “That’s just one tooth and I have three that need to be taken out right not, and that’s not even counting the fillings.”

Zach had a tooth break three months ago. The pain got worse and worse. “I was losing my hearing, I couldn’t smell or breathe through one of my nostrils because the infection had gone up in my face…. You explain this to the dentist’s office and they’re like, sorry, we can’t help you out, you’d better try going to the ER.” He went to the emergency room but, “they basically just gave me pain medication and antibiotics and sent me on my way.”

Zach was able to get his one tooth pulled through some grant money, but he still has two more broken teeth that need to be addressed. He has tried going to the local dental clinic, but the dentist who was volunteering there was sick the day of his appointment, and now Zach has to wait another three months for an appointment. He’s worried he doesn’t have that long–his dental needs are so acute that they need to be addressed now. “I just think it’s crazy how hard it is to get into a dentist’s office and have them help you out. If I broke my arm or something they’d fix it right away, but if I break a tooth, you sit and suffer with it… it’s one of the most painful things to go through.”

A Personal Story: Oragelling Through It – Karen, Lyme

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Karen lives in Lyme, New Hampshire. Her husband, Tom, was disabled as a result of an accident in 1990. At the time, she had some work done on one of her teeth, but was unable to finish it: “We had some money so I saw a dentist many years ago – and I agreed on charges to have a tooth implanted – but the dentist and surgeon both over charged me at my visit.” Karen couldn’t afford to finish the procedure, “…so I just have a [post] where one tooth was.”

Karen’s current situation makes it difficult for her to get the care she needs for her teeth. She explains:   “I got my teaching certification three years ago….  I was downsized last year.  I was a 60% teacher, so I only had a certain percentage of coverage offered.  It would have taken all my salary to cover my health plan.  So I didn’t get one.”

When Karen first lost her job, she called a dental clinic to see if she could get her tooth repaired, but she was unable to get help there, even though her income qualified. “(They) told me to call back another time, no one in the office…  I never filled out any papers.  Now I get some unemployment.  With Tom’s disability, we are just over – I think.”

“I have had three periods of having a really sore tooth.  Most go away with ambasol or orajel in a week or two.  This last one has been swollen for over a month.  (Fat Cheek included).  Tom has had mouth pain twice.  We are at that age.”

“Recently I had an abscess.  I oragelled my way through it – but noticed that my whole body ached.  I found some information that sometimes when a tooth is hurting, it releases toxins into your blood stream and creates other troubles.  My abscess is going away.  Hopefully the joint pain will too.  I am still sore all over and have inflammation in my mouth – so it upsets me that there must be millions like me who are simply out of work.”

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: No Clemency for Uninsured – Naomi, Thetford

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Naomi lives in Thetford, Vermont. This is her story:

For almost 25 years our family had health insurance that included dental benefits. I had to have a tooth pulled a decade or so ago, after a botched root canal procedure; there is a visible gap, but fixing it was and is not an option: insurance didn’t cover such things and it was – and is – just too expensive.

Our children had good dental care while growing up, then, in college, our elder son put off visits to a dentist; he knew that, at the time, we were unemployed and uninsured and there was no money for what he thought was unnecessary care. After a few years, his teeth started to hurt (he never told Mom and Dad what was going on) and eventually he made an appointment. He had seven cavities; we had to find $2,000 to take care of what was at that point urgent. The dentist who had taken over the practice of our former (trusted, competent, kind) long-term dentist was and is completely inflexible and seemingly heartless about payment. No clemency of any kind for uninsured patients: pay up front is the rule. We now have health insurance, but there is no dental component. I’ve been told that I need fillings; my jaw hurts; but I’m just going to live with it.

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: I Try to Do It Myself – Eve, Sharon

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Eve had partial dental coverage through her job two years ago. She went to the dentist because of pain in her mouth, and although the problem has only been partially resolved, she has since lost her job and can’t afford to go back. She lives in Sharon, Vermont. Here is her story:

“The last time I went to the dentist was two years ago, and he took care of a cavity, but he said that if it still hurts after a while it’s possible that it’s really just a root canal situation. But I never went back because I had such trouble paying off what I owed him. It took me two years to pay off the $350 because I had so many other bills. I don’t go to have my teeth cleaned anymore because I just try to do that myself, as much as I can. I eat a pretty whole foods diet so I think that my teeth are pretty stabilized, but I worry about them.”

Eve would like to use a dental loan or payment plan, but because she has bad credit she does not qualify. She feels really stuck because to get any work done she has to save up the money ahead of time. “I’m trying my best to get the big financial picture in order so I can be good about (taking care of my oral health.)…It amazes me how expensive it is.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: Avoiding It – Amber, Fairlee

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

After five years of no dental care, Amber finally got a job with both health and dental insurance and immediately scheduled an appointment with a dentist. She found out that she had three cavities and needed a root canal. Even with insurance, Amber had to take out a credit card for dental care to pay the $1,500 for the procedure. Because the interest rate was exorbitant, she worked hard to pay the bill off in five months.

Amber took a job overseas (ironically, working in the healthcare field to establish services for underserved populations.) A tooth chipped while she was out of the country, and now that she’s back in Vermont, she needs to get it checked, but she is between jobs and, again, doesn’t have any dental insurance. “I know I need to go back (to the dentist), but I’m avoiding it because I don’t want them to find something because I can’t get it fixed. Even if I could take out a loan, I couldn’t pay it back.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.