Posts Tagged ‘VHAP’

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: Glad She Has Insurance – Michelle, Strafford

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Michelle lives in Strafford, Vermont, and works full time as a surgical nurse. She pays $120 a month for the dental insurance that covers her, her husband, and son. Her son has braces and the insurance pays $2,000 a year towards those. Nonetheless, Michelle must still pay an additional $150 a month for her son’s braces. “It definitely makes it so that we can’t afford other things, like vacations and things like that… But, if something happened, we’re glad that we have dental insurance.” Four years ago Michelle’s son knocked out a permanent tooth that had to be re-implanted. He was on Dr. Dynasaur at the time, so, fortunately, the dental work that would have cost them thousands and thousands of dollars was completely covered.

“I would definitely say that having dental insurance for sure makes me use it…. for preventative care. If I didn’t have dental insurance I would probably always have (my son’s) teeth cleaned but I don’t know if I would do it for myself… Most people have some kind of fear about the dentist. So once you wait too long, if it’s been ten years since you’ve been for a cleaning, you’re less apt to go. As a nurse, I will say that good dentition is really kind of a fundamental part of a person’s well being, because if you can’t eat then you can’t get nutrients from food. People with poor dentition tend to not live as long.”

Michelle is surprised by the number of people she sees in her line of work who have full sets of dentures, some of them as young as 50. She feels fortunate that she was raised with the practice of going to the dentist for cleanings and check ups every six months. She also feels fortunate that when she did have VHAP, when she was living in Burlington, she found a dentist who would take her insurance. She remembers many dentists were not accepting new VHAP patients because they would not get reimbursed fully for their services, and in many cases were losing money.

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: Payment Plan Saved Her – Laurie, Washington

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

When Laurie was married to her first husband, she and her children had private dental insurance which covered their dental needs. When she divorced, she was no longer on that plan, and as a low income mom, she qualified for Vermont’s VHAP. The family dentist she had gone to for years did not accept VHAP, and Laurie needed a crown. Laurie was earning $11 an hour, and she didn’t have the money to pay for the entire procedure outright. She looked for a dentist who would take the VHAP insurance, but all the places who were accepting VHAP were not taking new patients. Luckily her family dentist was willing to work with her, offering her a payment plan for the $1,200 crown. Laurie spent an entire year paying off that dental work, and feels lucky: “Had I not had that relationship, I would have had to defer the crown.”

Laurie is still paying out of pocket for her dental care. Her teeth build tartar quickly, so her dentist recommends cleanings every four months. She has had to put off cleanings because of an inability to pay. “I do try to take good care of my teeth, but it’s hard to afford it.”

Illustration by Dennis Pacheco.

A Personal Story: When I Win the Lottery – Melisa, Corinth

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Melisa is 43 and living in Corinth, Vermont. She is a single mom who qualifies for dental insurance through VHAP. Six years ago, Melisa found out she needed a root canal and crown for one of her teeth. She paid her dentist over $2,000 for this work, but a year later the tooth broke and needed to be extracted. This time she found an inexpensive dentist further away from her home who pulled the tooth for $50. He suggested to her that she get a bridge within a year and Melisa thought, “Yeah, sure, when I win the lottery.” Five years later: “I still have a hole in my mouth.” However, Melisa has found a way to make sure her teeth are cleaned regularly and cavities filled. About once a year she goes to the Red Logan Clinic in White River Junction: “Without them, I wouldn’t be able to afford it for sure.”

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.