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Needy patients shouldn’t receive lower standard of care

A recent editorial [“Expand coverage with dental therapists and Medicaid reimbursements,” Opinion, Jan. 9] and a lengthy investigative story [“State dentists lobby is blocking potential source of low-cost care,” Page One, Jan. 4] highlighted the need for dental care in a segment of our population that is unable to afford treatment. These two pieces are a piercing look at the issues. They make clear that unfunded dental care is another example of the failure of our social fabric to provide basic services for those in need.

This financial reluctance ultimately comes to rest at the feet of taxpayers and the amount of money they are willing to provide for services such as dental care for the indigent. It is misleading to shift the responsibility for untreated disease to organized dentistry when it is a voter and legislative issue to provide funding for care.

We as a society must not reach out for a cheap solution, however. We would be remiss to provide a lower standard of care for the indigent than we would accept for ourselves. Those of us who can afford any level of care would choose to have it performed by a dentist rather than a dental therapist. We would choose to have a wound sutured by a surgeon rather than a physician assistant.

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The dental profession is solidly behind providing quality dental care for all individuals. We believe that indigent people should not have a lower standard of care.

Paul Heins, D.D.S., Redmond

Spread the burden around

One way to end the Medicaid crisis in pediatric and adult dental and medical care is to make licensure contingent on all physicians, nurse practitioners, physical and occupational therapists, and dentists agreeing to dedicate 10 percent of their office practice time to the care of Medicaid patients.

Spread the burden around, and no providers will get stuck with too much almost-free care. Patients will be better treated, healthier and eventually more productive — perhaps insured by other means and then continuing as better-paying patients for their care providers.

As licenses come up for renewal, of course we will see some people quit practice or move out of state, and they will be in one of two groups: those who are too old to change and well off enough to reject government intrusion, and those who would rather make as much money as possible than deliver care to everyone.

Oh, I can hear the vituperative moans already.

Frank Mitchell, M.D., Seattle