PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Peggy Austin said she couldn't properly take care of her teeth because of financial reasons.
“I was getting so many cavities because I didn’t have the money to go have them fixed,” she said.
But thanks to the Dental Lifeline Network, Peggy got thousands of dollars worth of root canal and tooth replacement at no cost.
Dr. Zack Kalarickal, who donates his services to the program, says there’s only so much the program can do.
Medicare does not cover most dental issues, even when they might be life-threatening.
Tooth or gum infections can exasperate cancer and heart disease or cause phenomena.
“So something we could have treated for less than $100 could have saved someone’s life,” said Kalarickal.
Florida Congressman Gus Bilirakis is reaching out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
He sent them a request signed by several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Bilirakis hopes they will change policies and cover dental care that is so crucial.
“It’s a quality of life issue. Look at Peggy. She’s smiling and she’s so grateful. But there are a lot of seniors that don’t get the medical care or in this case, the dental care that is necessary,” he said.
CMS says they do cover certain procedures but are looking into the issue.
Meanwhile, Peggy says her new teeth are helping her to feel better, and she just wants others to get the same help.
“It feels good to smile too,” she said.
To read the letter on Medicare coverage of medically necessary oral health, click here.