Clinic wants to clean up area dental disparities
January 10, 2014 by Hilary Powell
HealthLinc CEO Beth Wrobel says she often sees low-income patients prioritize bills, and put personal health last.
“When people are worried about where am I going to get my next meal or where I am living or what’s going on in their life, that’s the last thing that they think about.”
Recent changes to insurance coverage including the Healthy Indiana Plan and the Affordable Care Act mean a return to healthcare providers for some area residents, but not all healthcare needs are covered.
The Valparaiso-based clinic does not want oral health care to be a choice. Wrobel says a recent $5 million federal grant under the affordable care act means doctors can help more Hoosier families seek preventative dental care.
“We’ve been really busy with the affordable care act and we have a grant for outreach and enrollment. We just recently received an additional grant to get out there and get patients, so we see many people that we normally have not seen come in and then they get to know us. The dental care, other than for children is not one of the essential benefits so even if they sign up for the care plan, the dental and optometry are not covered.”
A HealthLinc study found 16,000 Porter County residents live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Wrobel says HealthLinc’s state-of-the-art facility was built to serve their dental needs.
“I bring my son to check his teeth to make sure he is healthy and strong,” says Valparaiso mother Lisa Fernandez. She has been receiving HealthLinc services for 10 years. She uses the organization’s sliding-scale fee to provide dental checkups for her three sons.
“I get medicaid. If I had no medicaid, if I had no money, if I had no income, they’d still help me and take care of my kids, and myself too,” she says.
Doctor Dean Webb, a dentist with HealthLinc says regular visits matter because oral hygiene can affect your overall health.
“The best thing to know is taking care of your body will help make everything better,” Webb says. “Not just one thing, but everything. If you take care of one part of your body like your oral health, it will help with systemic health in general.”
Fernandez says she is teaching her sons to take care of their teeth now, to help curb dental disease dangers later.