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Posted by: Maricopa Lawyers on Nov 18, 2013

Amidst the national conversation concerning healthcare, one county in Michigan has found an elegant solution to individuals who lack proper dental care.  Uninsured and unemployed residents in Michigan can receive free dental care by volunteering at local homeless shelters and around the county.

There are currently 4,000 adults who, since 2007, have received care under the Calhoun County Dentist’s Partnership, a privately funded program that requires patients to perform volunteer work in exchange for free dental services.

Uninsured patients can earn their keep by helping out local non-profits including Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

The program has been replicated in different states across the nation including Springfield, Missouri and South Bend, Indiana. While this service was instituted six years ago the program has been in the spotlight recently since the Affordable Care Act was rolled out in October.

The ACA or “Obamacare” will expand coverage to millions of people, but does not cover adult access to dental care. The Affordable Care Act does, however, extend dental coverage to children.

The use of dental coverage in the U.S. has declined significantly since 2007. Only 36 percent of U.S. residents visited a dentist in 2011, according to American Dental Association.  Nationally, more than 73 percent of low-income adults under 65 lack dental coverage.

Additionally, Medicare, the federal program for the elderly and disabled, does not cover dental services. Adults who apply to Medicaid, have no dental benefits in eight states and 17 other states only cover dental in emergencies.

Patients must volunteer four hours for every $100 worth in care. Some people do the minimum but others will volunteer hundreds of hours so they can use them to obtain dental services for years. To be eligible for the program, individuals must incomes below 200% the federal poverty level, or about $24,000 in 2013.

In the past year, the program in Michigan has expanded to cover chiropractic services and orthodontic care.