Dental coverage not restored in Missouri

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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.


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  • Juanita

    All the while those in government enjoy all the perks free health and dental at the expense of the tax payer including governor Nixon I am sure. If all those who supposedly worked in government took a pay cut balancing the budget would not be such a problem would it? Serving and fleecing have two different meanings but those in government don’t know the difference. No American should have to do with out dental care while those in government send billions to foreign aid wake up America our dollars need to stay in the USA period. Clean up our own back yard first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • brit

    I work 30+ hours a week and cannot afford dental coverage on top of living expenses. I am 24 and despite always taking care of my teeth I have several painful broken teeth that I can’t get fixed because the cost is so high. Every person should have some type of dental care regardless of income or age. I would have to drive 3 hours away to even have a consultation for a low income provider. there are a few in my area but they only do basic cleanings or extractions and not the type of work I need done. I can’t afford to take the time off work to drive 3 hours away several different times. So for those of you who disagree with adult coverage how about you think of the people who really are trying to make a living and need a little help.