A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Stories from the Dental Trenches & A New Report on MassHealth Enrollment

Stories from the Dental Trenches & A New Report on MassHealth Enrollment

April 8, 2005

HCFA's Bob Marra passed on the following report from a public meeting on the real problems faced by lower income consumers seeking decent dental care:

"Tears, frustration at the slow pace of change, and determination to address the dental crisis were in evidence last night at the Western Mass. Oral Health Public Forum in Holyoke (and the night before in Worcester). The Oral Health Advocacy Task Force (coordinated by HCFA's Stacey Auger) with Partners for a Healthier Community (Frank Robinson and Catherine Benoit) and State Reps John Scibak and Cheryl Rivera brought together 50 consumers along with health care and community leaders for two hours of stories of dental pain, lost teeth and oral infections resulting in expensive ER and inpatient care. A near-death experience was shared by the medical director of the Mason Square Health Center in Springfield. One of his well-controlled adult diabetic patients made many phone calls over 10 days trying to find dental care for an abscessed tooth. He finally went to the hospital ER when his infection spread to his throat. He nearly died while being intubated and was hospitalized in intensive care on a respirator for 10 days. This and other testimony was described by Rep. Scibak as the most powerful testimony he ever heard. He commended the Task Force for bringing this crisis to the attention of government leaders and the general public."

Check out more about HCFA's Oral Health Task Force by clicking here.
The ever fabulous Mass. Medicaid Policy Institute has produced another gem of a report at just the right time. "Eligible but Uninsured: Challenges to Getting and Keeping MassHealth" describes current enrollment initiatives and examines barriers state residents face to getting and retaining MassHealth benefits. Margaret Oakes, the author, interviewed representatives of organizations that work directly with people enrolled in or applying for MassHealth. The brief reports on their views of how recent changes in the administration of MassHealth have resulted in problems with enrollment and retention.

The issue brief concludes that the State's current efforts, while effective, are not sufficient to enroll all those who are eligible for MassHealth. It calls for the creation of an Outreach, Enrollment, and Retention Workgroup to develop information about specific populations most likely to be eligible but unenrolled, and to craft strategies for reaching out and bringing them into the program. Get the report by clicking here.