Let me start by saying that I hold Power of Attorney for my surrogate aunt – a woman I’ll call Mary. Mary and my mother became friends in 1938 and, before she died in 2000, my mother asked me to look after Mary in her stead. That said, Mary now has an encroaching case of dementia, lives in a nursing home, and is a Medicaid recipient.
Mary needed dentures a little over a year ago. Because there is only one dentist in our county who accepts Medicaid patients, we had a pretty long wait – more than a month, as I recall – for an appointment. When we arrived and filled out the papers, we joined approximately 40 other patients in the waiting room. Some were adults, many were children, all were on Medicaid.
I should have guessed by the way the children screamed after they were taken in, but I didn’t know until Mary was called into the dental chair an hour or so after our arrival that she would not be given prescription pain medication for the extraction of half her teeth (the other half would be extracted some weeks later). Need I add I was horrified at the thought of her going through this without something to dull the pain? The dentist was kind enough to give her some Tylenol, but even in her foggy mental state, Mary suffered terribly through that first extraction. To dull her pain before the second extraction, I gave her an extra-strength Tylenol and the dentist gave her one after. But she still suffered and she still bled, horribly.
This is the truth about Medicaid. There aren’t enough doctors or dentists to take care of the massive flood of patients we’re likely to see if and/or when this bill passes. And with our high unemployment numbers and lower tax revenues, there isn’t enough money to pay for all these new patients. There are sensible things we can do to expand coverage but this country is in danger of going bankrupt for real if we don’t do this right. And the bill that’s up for a vote today is not the right way to solve the problem.