Karlyn Echols' smile is not a pretty sight these days.
She has a painful cavity under one tooth, her gums often bleed, and she needs three teeth extracted and replaced with a bridge.
Echols, 69, tried to get the dental work started in early June before the state cut off dental benefits for adult Medi-Cal patients in July. The X-rays were taken at Western Dental, a Medi-Cal provider, but because of a paperwork mix-up and the rush of patients, Medi-Cal never authorized her treatment.
Almost five months later, the homebound resident of Ralston Tower has nowhere to turn.
"I am in a lot of pain," Echols said. "I'm at the point I could have more infection and I could get an abscess in my mouth."
The dental benefits, along with podiatry, optometry, audiology and psychology services, are considered optional benefits in the federal Medicaid program, which partners with states to provide health care for the poor. (The program is called Medi-Cal in California.) Those benefits were nixed this year as Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature dealt with staggering budget deficits.
Everyone from poor adults to disabled people and low-income seniors were left with no access to dentists, unless they could scrape up enough money to pay the bills.
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