This is old news, but every day Floridians with disabilities and special needs struggle to get the care they need. Unfortunately, things aren’t much different when it comes to dental care.
Finding a provider that is comfortable and competent, securing transportation, and understanding what treatments are appropriate, are just some of the challenges for Florida’s disabilities community. Not all Floridians with special needs qualify for help getting covered, but even those that are enrolled in insurance don’t have meaningful access.
The insured have meaningful access when their ability to use services and benefits are comparable to those who enjoy better health outcomes and status. This is far from the case for too many disabled Floridians.
Marion Landua-Figueroa is the parent of a special needs child in Jacksonville. She’s also the Family Advocate Champion at the Bower Lyman Center for the Medically Complex Child. She has seen and personally endured the challenges of finding dental care for children with special needs.
According to Marion, “In Jacksonville, if special needs children have a serious dental problem they have to visit Shands Hospital in Gainesville, 90 minutes away. A lot of local dentists aren’t comfortable treating special-needs children for a well visit for their teeth. It is difficult for parents to take time off work and many have transportation issues.”
Marion estimates that 80-90% of families she encounters end up traveling to Gainesville seeking care. Those unable to travel are forced to consider more expensive options locally.
This is an unacceptable reality that is playing out for families in communities throughout the state. We have to make access more meaningful for all Floridians. State lawmakers must begin to consider policies to improve provider networks and to promote the use of the coverage.
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