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Notes from the field: An Enrollment Outreach Worker Supports Dental Therapists

Guest post by Maria Perez

I worked on consumer outreach and education during this first open enrollment period in New Mexico. And as I talked to the uninsured about the amazing possibility of gaining health coverage, the first reaction I usually got was one of suspicion.

“Do you work for the State? For the Insurance Companies?”

This happened a lot. Once I explain, sometimes two or three times, that I work for a non-profit organization devoted to issues of health access and advocacy, people begn to warm up to the idea that maybe this Obamacare thing is actually happening, and that somehow it may actually benefit them and their families.

Then they start getting excited and asking lots of pertinent questions.

One of the most common questions I got was “Will dental be included in these plans?” It is amazing how much people have to put off getting dental care in this state! It is not uncommon to hear stories of how working families haven’t been able to get dental care in over a decade.

I tell them that Medicaid does include dental care in its plan, and the relief that I sense from these folks is intense.

But the question remains, how will so many people who have been putting off their dental care gain actual access to the services when there is such a shortage of providers? I advise them to be patient in regards to this. Yes, they will gain access to dental care, but it will take some time to come up with a workforce solution.

For this very reason, New Mexico needs Dental Therapists!

Word of Mouth