Effort to expand access to dental health for low income Mainers

Effort to expand access to dental health for low income Mainers

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) – A bill with a goal of making dental care more available to low income Mainers is back on track to becoming a reality.

That following a public hearing Monday afternoon.

“The last year has been a nightmare. My teeth are crumbling out of my mouth.”

Kim Hammill of Levant was among the Mainers who detailed the myriad of issues they have had due to a lack of dental coverage.

“It’s documented that for people age 25 to 44 who are uninsured or have Medicaid that dental disease is the number one reason that they go to the emergency room.” said Speaker of the House Ryan Fecteau. who is one of the sponsors of L.D. 996, An Act To Improve Dental Health Access for Maine Children and Adults with Low Incomes.

“It was my experience growing up there because my parents didn’t have access to dental care, it was never something that was ingrained in me and my sister growing up either,” recalled Fecteau. “Dental care was not a priority, not only in terms of visiting the dentist, but it was not a priority inside the household as well.”

A similar bill gained bipartisan support last year before the legislature abruptly adjourned because of COVID-19.

The Chief Economist for the American Dental Association, Marko Vujicic, says this bill would cost the state around $2.7M when the savings from things like less need for emergency care are factored in.

“Beyond healthcare, we estimate that this type of investment will lead to about $21 million per year in economic activity,” he said.

Kayla Kalel will soon graduate from the University of Maine Augusta.

She has had to take thousands of dollars in loans to pay for work she has needed.

“Education is power,” said Kalel. “If I’ve gone most of my childhood and my adult life with minimal dental coverage, and I have access to a dentist, and I’m learning how to take care of my teeth, and I’m gonna be able to teach that to my daughter.”

30 people registered for the hearing today to give testimony about their struggles with oral health and maintenance in Maine over the years.

Copyright 2021 WABI. All rights reserved.

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