05.04.17

The Trooth

Posted in Culture of Lickspittle, Permanent Fail at 2:01 pm by George Smith


American exceptionalism: Relearning the lost art of home tooth take-outs.

It seems perfect to match my tale of tooth removal with fresh news of the House’s successful vote to repeal and replace Obamacare. Here in California I’m a recipient of that but truth, or trooth, be told there’s a lot that allegedly landmark legislation doesn’t cover.

My Obamacare policy came on the expansion of Medicaid in California. And Medicaid doesn’t cover teeth, really.

I’ll cut to a great relevant quote and bring up a recent NYT piece which ran a day or two after I pulled the tooth, above:

He knew that he needed to. It hurt to chew. A couple of teeth had grown discolored, so he tried not to smile broadly. His daughter kept urging him to get a checkup.

The reason he didn’t: money.

Medicare has never provided dental care, except for certain medical conditions, and California’s Medicaid program covers only some services, at reimbursement rates so low that most of the state’s dentists do not accept Medicaid patients at all.


Many Americans find it difficult to obtain adequate dental care, but the problem is particularly acute among older Americans …

At the West Center, where the average patient lives on $850 a month, “they often haven’t seen a dentist in 10 or 20 years,” Dr. Becerra said. “They’d end up in the E.R. when the pain got unbearable.” She has seen patients who have pulled their own teeth.

When I graduated from Lehigh with a Ph.D. I had a pretty good oral record. No cavities at all. All through youth, regular dental care and visits, no problem. It was something pretty much every kid in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, received.

However, over the next few years and then permanently, it was all unraveled. If you didn’t latch into a good corporate dental plan through employment, or hitchhike on a spouse’s, you were pretty much fucked as the masters of the United States decided that dental care for everyone was too much of an expensive option.

So if you were a freelance worker, or someone with spotty employment, you could buy one of those worthless health insurance policies since outlawed by Obamacare. If you had one, you found out what it was like. It didn’t cover anything short of catastrophic leading to terminal illness and then not even all of that.

Trips to the dentist were expensive on piece work and freelance incomes. So they didn’t happen.

Are things better? Only sort of. Obamacare remedied some of the problems. No teeth, though. Trooth!

I suspect tens of thousands of people have similar policies under Obamacare, whether implemented by the state or through the still much disliked health insurance sector. Teeth, however, are not peripherals. Which only shows that healthcare in the US is still handled as a rigged market of commodity services.

But back to the story.

If you’d have told me on graduation that some day, not soon but in the distant future, I’d be holding one of my molars in the palm of my hand, posing it for a smartphone pic, I woudn’t have known what to say.

I remember trips to places like colonial Jamestown and Williamsburg where you could walk the old American dirt street and stop in the mock dentist’s office. A person in wig was often there to tell you the dentist was often located close to the bar so the patient could sort of be numbed with some strong drink before getting in the chair for an extraction.

“Har, har!” the parents, now long dead, and us kids would laugh. We lived in modern America. Something that primitive — inconceivable! They believed that thngs would always get better and I was still way too young to know better.

And that’s my story for today’s Obamacare repeal. Selah!

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