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Special Needs and Poor Networks Makes Dental Health Mission Impossible in Florida


In our health system, finding affordable, comprehensive coverage is only half the battle. Once you have insurance, the hard work of finding a physician and actually receiving care begins. Unfortunately, many Floridians enrolled in Medicaid are experiencing how hard this becomes when looking for a dental provider.

Daisy Brooks is the Director of Eva’s Gift, a non-profit that helps families with special needs children. Ms. Brooks has a young daughter daughter with complex special needs that have made some dentists uncomfortable. In the past, a few dentists have wanted to put her daughter under anesthesia just to do a teeth cleaning.

Daisy explains that “I don’t put her under because it brings on seizures. They were so uncomfortable anytime she coughed or needed suctioning. I went to another doctor that did clean her teeth, but they seemed very uncomfortable with her. This was one of the only dental offices that accept Medicaid and special needs patients. I stopped taking my daughter there because it was a waste of time.”

Finding a provider is not just about finding someone close to where you live. Comfort with your doctor or dentist is imperative to receiving good treatment. The limited number of dental providers that accept Florida Medicaid make it harder for patients with unique needs to get and stay healthy.

Fortunately, Daisy was referred to another dentist. Despite not being covered by Medicaid, Daisy has made the tough choice to continue receiving treatment at this location.

“I explained to her that I was nervous and told her about the previous issues I had. They sat down and talked to me and said they would be happy to give her a try without putting her under. She has suctioned her with the help of her assistant. I pay out of pocket because it’s worth it. The patience that she has with all 4 of my children is wonderful. It takes a person with a caring heart to take the time to treat my special needs daughter with respect and listen to the family and not dismiss it.”

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and our lawmakers have the responsibility to make Medicaid coverage meaningful for the hardworking families who depend on it. The stories of fellow Floridians make it clear that our state's poor oral health cannot be blamed on failures in personal responsibility. Instead, decision-makers aren't doing enough to ensure that communities have the resources and provider networks they need to be healthy.

You can help by taking action in support of oral health. We'll keep you updated on the campaign and the latest oral health bills moving in Tallahassee as we get closer to the 2021 Florida legislative session.

Do you have a preexisting condition or another healthcare experience you would like to share? Your story can make the difference in the lives of other Floridians dealing with the same. Fill out the form below or click here to share!

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