New America Media, News Report, Anna Challet, Posted: Jan 21, 2013
Children face dentist shortage despite new Medi-Cal and ACA coverage
Over half of California’s children will soon have access to dental care because of the Affordable Care Act. The problem, according to a recent report, is that not enough dentists are willing to treat them.
“In Alturas, none of the dentists take Medi-Cal,” says resident Christa Perry, whose 4-year-old son Alexander has a cavity. Alturas, tucked into the northeastern corner of California, is a city of close to three thousand. In late October of last year, Perry took Alexander to a dentist in Canby, twenty miles away.
“His tooth hurt so badly that he was crying, and they told me we needed to leave – because he was crying,” she says. The office directed her to a dental practice in Susanville, a hundred miles away.
Perry, who runs a daycare in her home, had to miss work to drive her son to the appointment. She was also concerned about gas money. Alexander’s appointment was for 2:00; at 4:00, he still hadn’t been seen. Perry’s younger child, an infant, was crying, and the dentist, who was working on another patient, seemed frustrated about listening to the baby. Sometime after 4:00, Perry and her children left.
She was eventually able to find a third dentist who took Medi-Cal, but that office had to cancel her appointment the day before due to an emergency. It would have been another long drive and by then it was winter; Perry was concerned about her older car being safe to drive on the snowy roads throughout Modoc County.