I am very lucky. As a child growing up in the Beverly Hills/West Hollywood area of Los Angeles, there was not much that I wanted that I didn’t get. Sure, I was just a child during WWII, but my parents were well off and I always got one piece of bubble gum a week – I had to put it in a glass of water to save for the next day. (I wonder if that was the precursor to putting my dentures in a glass of water when I got older.)
Later, after quitting high school and working my first few jobs, I still made enough money to buy what I wanted; health insurance was covered 100% by my employer; I drove my own car and was able to make payments without trouble. I always thought of myself as “upper middle class” because I never felt deprived of things I wanted. In retrospect, I am not proud of these feelings; others suffered while I led a good life. I have always been a “giver” and not a receiver, and tried to do everything I could do to make things easier for my friends and acquaintances. Now I look back and wonder if they felt that I was trying to “buy” their friendship, which was surely not the case.
I married twice; each of my spouses were in the educational field, not making a lot of money, but allowing us to live comfortably with three young daughters. (One husband at a time, of course.) When Bob, my husband of 45 years retired in 1980, he was a Superintendent of Schools in a little town in Central California. His top salary was $29,000 a year, and he retired on that. (Note: The same position in the same town now pays $100,000 a year.) Because he was a teacher, he did not have any social security benefits that amounted to anything – $250 a month – and his retirement from the State Teachers Fund was less than $1000 a month.
I was working, and although I felt I was no longer “upper” middle class, I still considered myself “middle class.” Our children were out of the house; there was just Bob and I, and our dog (s), but when I retired in 2004, I found that we were not longer able to live as comfortably as before, but we were not destitute. We had some money in 401K’s, which tanked in 2008. But…we still had our house in the Sunset Cliff’s area of San Diego – greatest investment we ever made in 1968! – and although we wanted to do some traveling we never did because we did not feel we could afford it.
Because Bob’s retirement was so small to begin with, we decided to take the option of collecting more monies while he was alive rather than spread it out until I passed on too.
And then Bob died.
With his death his pension stopped. My social security was more than his, so I lost his too. And…after all of these years, I no longer thought of myself as “middle class.” In fact, I might even be described as living below the poverty level. Quite a change for my psyche, but not much in my style of living, because I have always been fugal in my spending and have not felt the real “pinch” yet.
I had budgeted for this visit for the past 6 months and even knowing that I had some insurance that would cover this visit, I was unprepared for the $134 I was charged. The cleaning was only $48. But then I had to have a limited oral evaluation by the dentist – another $36 – had to have 4 x rays at the cost of $25 – and then I had a fluoride treatment of another $25. So much for my budget of $75.
Then, to top it off – excuse the pun – I need to have a root canal and crown on the very last molar on the right side. I will be sent out for the root canal so I do not know the cost, but the cost for the crown is estimated to be $1518 with my insurance!
You know what? I’m NOT going to have the procedure done. I’m going to have the tooth pulled! There is no way in the world that I can pay that money to have the recommended procedure.
I think about all the people I see that have big gaps in their mouths where their teeth used to be. I have felt so sorry for those people: How do they eat? Aren’t they concerned about how they look? What are the factors that caused them to lose their teeth? I wonder if it all boils down to the “money factor”.
I would imagine that if you were homeless it would be very difficult to do proper oral hygiene. It would be difficult to do any kind of hygiene properly. But I am not homeless; I use an expensive Phillips Sonar Toothbrush to brush my teeth twice a day; I floss; I see the dentist every 6 months, yet I will elect to have the tooth out rather than pay the money for the crown.
People should not have to make health care decisions based on money – or lack of it.
People should be able to make the best decision and follow through with that decision regardless of the cost. We should not be allowed to neglect our health care because we can’t afford the procedures.
The greatest nation in the world still balks at taking care of its inhabitants, yet we send money overseas all the time to help people in other nations. When are we going to start taking care of our people right here?
As I was shopping at the market immediately after my dentist appointment, I watched many people pick up Halloween candy to put in their baskets for the 31st of October.
The thought crossed my mind that if all those people pooled their money into a “Teeth for Homeless” campaign, I bet millions of dollars of money could be generated to aid those people.
And not just the homeless either. All people, in these great United States, that need proper oral care. It’s too late for this year – but what about the next year and years after that? Will the candy producers go broke? I hardly think so. Maybe it is “food” for thought!