Monday, November 1, 2010

Middle Class Gap

I've identified a huge (and pretty literal) gap for the lower middle class: dental care.

If you're lower income you often qualify for medicaid and can get basic dental care, at least for your kids. If you're upper middle class or higher there's a good chance that you're working for a company that offers decent dental benefits.
But if you're stuck in that income range that's too high for public assistance but not high enough/privileged enough to get good dental coverage at work, you're pretty well screwed when it comes to dental care.

It's hard enough to try to make ends meet when you're in this income bracket. You make just enough to pay your bills but not really enough to save up for retirement, major emergencies, or really good dental care. Most people in this bracket are already faced with the high costs of health insurance because employers have been cutting back on benefits and unloading most of the financial burden on the employees. Dental care ends up being a true luxury.

Heaven forbid you get a toothache. Dentists aren't known for their compassion or generous natures. If you can't afford to have a tooth taken care of, you're out of luck. You can either go into debt to have it properly taken care of (and root canals, crowns, etc. can cost more than a hospital stay), live with the pain, let it continue decaying, or have it pulled. There aren't many other options. And to a family that's just surviving, going into debt for one or two teeth isn't really a viable option, especially with multiple family members in need of care. How do you pick and choose whose teeth are more important?
Or do you just give up and go with this option?:

When I look around and see good, hardworking people who haven't been able to get proper care for their teeth because they are in this dental no-man's land, I can't help but think that there's something wrong with the system. It's hard to want to "get ahead" and be independent and self-reliant when it's so much easier to go with a lower stress, lower paying job and just accept all the benefits available to lower income families. What's the point of trying to take care of ourselves if:
a) we can't really afford to do a good job of it, and
b) the government is willing to provide more care for less effort??

Can we see why so many people don't bother to work hard and try to realize the "American dream" anymore??! (Is it starting to feel more like the "American nightmare"??) Wouldn't it be nice if companies actually rewarded hard work and integrity with good benefits and reciprocal loyalty? I'm not so young that I can't remember a time when that was the case.

And yes, we are one of those families in this situation. If anyone would like to subsidize our dental care, we would happily take donations. (And I'm only kinda kidding about that...)


David said...

I love the way you put that.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you, BUT life is full of hard choices and many times people choose between the large screen TV and proper medical care. Or, the newest cell phone with all it's bells and whistles and proper medical care. And on and on.

I'm not implying you are in that category, but the accepted current mindset is that one is willing to make budget adjustments to buy that next big luxury item (or a few smaller items that we can surely do without), but not pay for one's own medical expenses.

I don't understand where the idea came from that it is the "company's" responsibility to provide all our medical and dental care costs.

If instead of providing medical benefits, the "companny" raised wages, would most people use that extra money to pay for their medical expenses? Sadly, experience has shown they will not.

So, who is really to blame?

Louann and Bari said...

First off, you should run for office. I'd vote for you.

Secondly, to the annon. comment (gee, thanks for identifying yourself). I DONT have a big screen tv, I DONT have extra material things in my home. We live pretty basic, almost paycheck to paycheck. I don't know who's fault it is that I can't afford to see a dentist as often as I should (both my husband and I work full time)- - --may be it is the dentists fault for charging too much. Which ever it is - - -makes no difference. I still can't afford nominal (not even average) dental care.
Sorry Patty - annon. just riled me up.

Mama D said...

Sadly, even those on Medicaid often only get coverage for their kids, not for themselves. And from what I've seen, dental is not included.

The system needs to be changed, but changed to benefit the majority (the middle class of which you speak) not to benefit special interest groups.

There are those who stereotypically buy the latest gadgets without working hard to support their families - but you were writing about those who typically work the hardest to be self-sufficient and are still the ones getting shafted and hurt by the system.

chelle said...

Anon missed the point of the your post I think. =\
Riles me up too Louann. lol