The Washington Post reports:
Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.How do we accept or justify a child dying from a toothache in the United States of American in 2007?
A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.
If his mother had been insured.
If his family had not lost its Medicaid.
If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.
If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.
By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.
Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.
Some poor children have no dental coverage at all. Others travel three hours to find a dentist willing to take Medicaid patients and accept the incumbent paperwork. And some, including Deamonte's brother, get in for a tooth cleaning but have trouble securing an oral surgeon to fix deeper problems.
In spite of efforts to change the system, fewer than one in three children in Maryland's Medicaid program received any dental service at all in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The figures were worse elsewhere in the region.
That isn't a political question, although its answer will require something like political courage from members of both parties to address the scandalous facts of this case and the scandalous realities underneath them.
If you're pro-life, as I am, it seems to me that you can't countenace the inconsistency of claiming to care about life in the womb without having an equally urgent concern about life outside the womb.