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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Capitalism kills

Another tragic episode in a long-running series:
Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Fewer than 16 percent of Maryland's Medicaid children received restorative services -- such as filling cavities -- in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Will it come as a surprise to you that Deamonte Driver is black? No, I'm sure it won't, although there are plenty of poor white people suffering equally from the lack of health care in this country. Scratch that. The health care is available. It's just not available to everyone. Only to those who can pay. Because that is, after all, the guiding principle of capitalism.

How could things be different? Here's the very first link that came up when I Googled "Dental care in Cuba":

Although Cuba’s ability to provide technologically advanced therapies has been hampered by a 40-year U.S. trade embargo, I can report that the nation has developed some surprisingly effective approaches to preventive care.

For example, the percentage of caries-free five-year-old Cuban children increased from 30 percent in 1984 to 55 percent in 1998, according to the World Health Organization. And between 1973 and 1999, the mean number of carious teeth in 12-year-old Cuban children dropped from 6.0 to 1.4. There have been achievements in adult oral health as well, including oral cancer screenings for 71 percent of adults over age 60.

Preventive efforts center on a network of primary care clinics throughout this island nation, where 9,877 dentists serve 11 million people (a ratio of approximately 1:1,100). The clinics care for an average of 700 to 900 local residents from cradle to grave. They provide annual dental examinations for all Cubans (twice annually for those under four years old or over 60), pre- and postnatal infant oral health instruction, and 16 annual fluoride mouth rinse treatments for all school-age children.
(Hat tip to Politics in the Zeroes)

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