The EHRP Team winced when we saw this story, reported by Gretchen Gavett for PBS Frontline:
Deamonte Driver’s tooth was bothering him. The same was the case for his younger brother DeShawn, who needed six teeth extracted. Both boys, from Maryland, were at some points covered by Medicaid. At critical times, though, they were dropped from the program because, according to their mother Alyce, their paperwork may have been sent to a homeless shelter where they lived for a short time.
Alyce, who worked a variety of jobs over the years, didn’t have insurance.
Mary Otto, who first covered the story for The Washington Post, found the Driver family after being contacted by Laurie Norris, a lawyer for the Public Justice Center of Baltimore. Norris was helping Alyce Driver navigate the dental system for DeShawn — making more than 20 calls in order to find a dentist that would accept Medicaid — when Deamonte became ill. After he was taken to the hospital to be treated for a headache, Deamonte became sicker, eventually needing two brain surgeries. He died less than a month later, in February 2007.
If it had been caught early, extracting Deamonte’s damaged tooth could have cost $80. The bill for two weeks of his care at Maryland’s Children’s Hospital was between $200,000 and $250,000, reports Otto. At the time of his death, only about 900 of Maryland’s 5,500 dentists accepted Medicaid.