It’s 2022. Why aren’t our eyes and teeth covered by health insurance?
Here is one of those issues that looms right in front of our faces without us even noticing that it is worth questioning. So, I present to you my current riddle, because why should I be the only one stuck on this question?
Why are eyes and teeth excluded from health care? They are associated with what is considered important for your health. Being able to see or eat apparently doesn’t count in this category, but damn it, doesn’t it seem like they should?
If you are experiencing eye or dental issues, these issues can quickly become overwhelming in your life. If you have an abscessed tooth but have spent the few dental dollars allotted for the last cavity, you can live in pain until the next exercise or pay the full cost to get out of the pain.
Current coverage for dental and eye care falls far short of the true cost of these services. This has never been the case. So that brings us back to the question of why eyes and teeth were taken out of your health care plan and set aside as beacons that seemingly have no impact on your health. They are the unwanted red-haired stepchildren of the health industry.
I had an interesting afternoon trying to figure out why. Who first separated them from general health care needs? This question has many answers, none of which currently make sense. They barely made sense when they first happened, but now they don’t make sense.
Initially, dentists were considered inferior beings by doctors. It dates back to the days when barbers would shave you and cut your hair, then hollow out your abscessed tooth or just pull it out. But eventually, dentists moved away from working in barber shops and became skilled providers of an important service. Yet until the 1900s, judges deemed dentists not to be physicians providing professional-level medical care.
Ophthalmologists were even further behind the eight ball in this regard, seen as mere providers of eyeglasses when needed. Not very impressive work. Yet it was an optician who first noticed the onset of diabetic eye disease in my eyes and sent me to a specialist. First he saved my vision, then the specialist he sent me to kept me going for over 20 years. If that’s not important medical work, I don’t know what is.
Eye doctors at all levels can look into your eyes and spot a number of health issues, as many of them first become evident in the eyes. Dentists can prevent serious health problems by keeping your mouth healthy and treating infections before they spread to your heart. And really, when was the last time you went to your doctor for a checkup, and he actually inspected your mouth? Dentists can detect cancers when they are just starting because they are actually inspecting your mouth.
But now we have to ditch the fun reason that the eyes and mouth are considered less needing areas of care and move on to that place where all problems eventually land – the boardrooms of health insurance companies and the Congress. None of these organizations are considered particularly quick when it comes to critical issues like the health issues of 9/11 first responders. So you can imagine the speed they attribute to a problem they don’t consider critical. Glaciers are now officially moving faster than Congress, thanks to global warming.
I know this may seem like a trivial question, given that a madman in Russia is threatening to start a nuclear war. But in case he doesn’t, it looks like it’s something that needs to be reconsidered by both the health care industry and Congress. If they start now, chances are your grandchildren will enjoy the benefits of real health care coverage that includes all parts of the body. They may just have to wait until the year 2023 for that to happen.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaskan columnist and author. His book “Coming Into the City” is available on AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for review, email comment(at)dna.com. Send submissions of less than 200 words to [email protected] Where click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and comments here.