"I'm Tired of Eating Baby Food"
Powerful testimony today before the Legislature's Health Care Financing Committee on bills to repair damage to MassHealth inflicted during the fiscal crisis. Our dynamic oral health advocacy coordinator, Stacey Auger, kept notes from some testimony:
SC from Cambridge: Without a full set of teeth, it becomes difficult to chew and et nutritious food. One of my favorite things to eat is salad, but I can't eat it. Everything I eat I have to chop or mash like it's baby food.
LN from Worcester: I have always had gum disease. I worked all my life and have had good jobs and good insurance. I was a productive member of society. Once I became disabled and went on MassHealth, though, it's like the world said "go over in that corner; we don't need you any more." Just because I can no longer afford these services doesn't mean I don't need them. If I had them I could be a productive member of society again. ... My gum disease is so bad I only have four teeth left. When you don't have teeth, you don't eat well. You don't digest, you choke easily. I'm tired of eating baby food. When your oral health suffers, you lose teeth. People perceive you as poor. Your self esteem goes down. You don't smile. Kids walk us to me and say 'ma'am' because I look like a great grandmother. You can't keep or get jobs.
Dr. Mike Monopoli, Delta Dental: In 2002, at the height of the fiscal crisis, the administration eliminated dental benefits for 560,000 adults in MassHealth as a cost-savings measure. Cost-savings is not cost-effective. Lack of access to dental care increases MassHealth costs in the long run. Lack of preventive dental care leads to increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease is associated with increased risk of premature and low birth weight babies in mothers. Complications associated with low birth weight result in high cost to care for infants in their first months of life and increased medical costs for years thereafter. Untreated periodontal disease increases medical costs for adults with cardiac disease and diabetes. Untreated cavities leads to infections and the need for root canal treatment, extractions and dentures. MassHealth adults without access to dental care burden hospital emergency departments when they are in pain and have nowhere to go. Dental care in a hospital ER is the most costly and least effective way to provide dental care.