CHICAGO, September 24, 2013 — To continue the discussion on the importance of oral health for all Americans, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) chaired a Senate Health subcommittee hearing on Sept. 12 about the cost of dental care in the United States, focusing on how those who most need dental care are the least likely to get it. Oral Health America applauds this effort to bring attention to the problems facing the nation when it comes to oral health care.
"In the last couple of years we've had a lot of discussion in our country about a dysfunctional health care system in which 50 million people have no health insurance," Sen. Sanders said during the hearing. "Unfortunately, in the midst of the discussion on health care in general, we have forgotten and paid very little attention to an element of health care that is enormously important to all Americans, and that is dental care and the fact that we have a major crisis in dental care. This is an issue that needs a whole lot of discussion. It gets pushed under the rug and it's time we brought it out into the sunlight."
The hearing also focused on the lack of access to care, the high costs of dental care for those who do not have dental insurance, and the issue of Americans turning to emergency rooms for dental pain when they have no other options for care. Among those who spoke during the hearing was Dr. Frank Catalanotto of the University of Florida and Vice Chair on the board of directors for Oral Health America. Dr. Catalanotto spoke about the effects of the lack of access to dental care across the country and the high costs of dental education.
"I'd like to point out that Congress is lobbied by many members of the dental industry, including dental academics, but who lobbies for the patient for increased access to care?" Dr. Catalanotto asked during the hearing. "I would suggest that we need you and your leadership roles in Congress to lobby for those patients."
Sen. Sanders also announced his intention to reintroduce the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act to Congress, which would expand comprehensive dental coverage to millions of Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Veteran Affairs, would authorize funding to increase access to dental services at community health centers, and boost support for mobile clinics and dental clinics in schools. Click here for the entire text of the bill.