So, instead, I'm going to talk about kids' teeth. From the KJ:
Last November, Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist in Augusta and president of the Maine Dental Association, saw a 4-year-old patient for the first time in that child's life. The child's teeth had significant damage and needed five or six fillings, he said.
He asked the child's mother why she had waited so long to see him.
"She felt embarrassed," he said, "but she said the only reason that she didn't come sooner was because her insurance didn't allow it."
Maine law currently allows dental insurance companies to decide when to offer insurance to children. On Wednesday, the Insurance and Financial Services Committee heard arguments in favor of requiring companies that offer dental coverage in Maine to offer it to children from birth.
No one testified against the bill, though several insurer representatives expressed concerns about how it might affect their bottom lines.
Full disclosure (not that I think anyone out there cares about my Integrity as a Blogger) -- Dr. Shenkin happens to be a friend of mine. That being said, kids' dental health has been an issue of particular interest to me since we moved to Maine, to the point that I recorded public information spots for the Watch Your Mouth campaign a few years ago.
It is vitally important to children have good dental coverage. Dental problems account for significant amonts of missed school and numerous ER visits every year for millions of children, and are a source of both pain and psychological distress. (Not only are dental infections very painful, which can cause dietary problems for children who cannot chew normally, but cavities and missing teeth can make children very self-conscious. It is heart-breaking to hear stories about kids refusing to smile for pictures because they are embarrassed.) I am also powerless to help children with dental infections. I can prescribe an antibiotic, but they typically recur if the diseased tooth is not filled or extracted. For kids with no insurance, there are often few choices.
It is beyond ridiculous for insurance companies to "provide" dental coverage for children but to arbitrarily choose an age far past the recommended onset of dental care. For some children, it's already years too late. Yes, proper prevention can obviate much of the need for some of these services. However, no matter how much information we disseminate, there will still be plenty of kids who get cavities and abscesses. Public education campaigns can only do so much.
Insurance companies continue to make hefty profits, year after year. It is stomach-churning to consider that they would put those considerations before the needs of children with genuine, acute need. But there you have it. This is a need that needs to be addressed, and I wish Dr. Shenkin every success with his efforts.
Update: For a[n unsurprisingly] contrary view on the importance of today's summit, I give you The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn.