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Dental Misery: MassHealth Cuts Take Toll

Massachusetts led the way toward getting more people covered by health insurance, but recently it took a notable step in the other direction.

As of July 1, about 700,000 poor adults statewide lost their dental coverage through MassHealth, the public health insurance program, as a result of budget cuts. CommonHealth asked Christine Keeves of the advocacy group Health Care For All how the cuts were playing out.

Q:What are you seeing as a result?

A:  Health Care For All has a HelpLine that can answer general insurance questions, tell folks what free and lower-cost programs they may be eligible for, and help them to apply all in quick and easy telephone call. They have experienced a spike in calls now that the cut has been made. Our Helpline counselors have already collected stories from every corner of the state from MassHealth members who are in pain, unable to eat, sleep, or work because of dental pain, and who are getting sicker and sicker while they try to find care.

· A Worcester woman, pregnant and on disability, needs two root canals that she cannot get because the procedure is no longer covered, which is endangering the health of her and her unborn child.

· A Mattapan man who has had 8 extractions cannot get the dentures he needs not only to go on job interviews (which we all know is incredibly important, especially in the current economic climate), but also for such basic functions as eating and speaking.

· Our Helpline counselors are in the process of assisting a Springfield woman who is mentally ill and diabetic. She had to have all of her teeth pulled in June. In light of this cut she is unable to get dentures. Her doctor warns that she will die without the dentures. Continue reading