KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- July 1 was supposed to be the day that dental coverage for Missouri adults on Medicaid was restored, but it's not happening.
The coverage was eliminated nearly a decade ago. Rayford Lee says you can look in his mouth to see the effect; five missing teeth. Painful, decayed ones had to be pulled.
"Just because you couldn't afford to go in and have regular maintenance like you normally would expect somebody to do in this day and time," said Lee.
This spring, Missouri lawmakers okayed $48 million in state and federal funds for dental care. Governor Jay Nixon signed the bill, but then withheld the funds as one way of balancing the budget that took effect Tuesday. Lee disagrees with the governor's decision.
"Anything dealing with individuals' health should come first," he said.
Sister Loretto Marie Colwell is director of Seton Center which has a dental clinic in Kansas City.
"We know the governor was facing horrendous problems as was the legislative body," Colwell said.
The director says Seton Center will have to continue relying on charitable grants to provide dental care for the Medicaid population. She says the challenge is getting the word out to those people that they can come to the clinic for preventive care at low cost, and they can also receive emergency care.
A new program is aimed at helping people who show up at Truman Medical Center's emergency room with abscessed teeth. They're referred to Seton or another safety net dental clinic to receive care within 24 hours.
"That saves Medicaid a great deal of money and also alleviates people being in the emergency room that don't belong there," said Colwell.
Lee found out about Seton Center when he was at Truman for medical care.
"When I came here I was like -- face all twisted and everything. So they got that done," said Lee.
He no longer has as toothache, and he's looking forward to getting partial dentures at the clinic.
The executive director of the Missouri Dental Association, Vicki Wilbers, says her group is disappointed that the governor withheld the money for dental, but she says if state revenues rise, the funds could be made available.