AmeriHealth is working to help people with disabilities get proper dental care

Hadas Kuznits
March 30, 2019 - 1:08 pm
Mark Jastrebski / Deb Jastrebski

Hadas Kuznits | KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A locally based health care provider is taking new measures to help people with disabilities get proper dental care.  

Deb Jastrebski has an adult son with down syndrome. When the people at AmeriHealth Caritas made the public announcement that they would be taking measures to treat people with disabilities, she teared up. Jabreski says hearing that the insurance company would take measures to properly train their dentists and promote an environment where people like her son could get care, made her emotional because of her family's pervious run-ins with the health care industry.  

"They feel that if somebody gets upset you have to bring more people in and hold them down and then sedate them and hold them down some more," Jackson said, "and all that does is create a cycle of negativity."

Angela Jackson says in the past, dentists have had a difficult time understanding the needs of her son, Troy:

"If they ask him a question, if he doesn't answer, it's not that he is trying to be rude, it's just that he may not understand the question," Jackson said. "You may have to rephrase the question for him. The office needs to be calm."

Troy Jackson with his mom Angela Jackson
Hadas Kuznits | KYW Newsradio

Troy has asperger syndrome. The disorder creates difficulties for him going to a typical dental appointment.

"For me, it's sitting still when I'm waiting for a routine check-up and trying to relax," he explained.

Dr. Larry Paul, Vice President of Dental Health Programs at AmeriHealth Caritas, says negative office experiences can prevent patients from coming in regularly to get proper dental care.

"We just want there to be more of an understanding among the dental community that this group of people with disabilities is underserved," Paul said.

And so he says they're changing their model by training dentists, offering higher reimbursements for patients with disabilities who need longer visits, changing their office environments and overall providing more support to families with disabilities.

"Every patient has to be met on their own comfort level," Paul said, "and for somebody with a disability, often times that comfort level is different than somebody who does not have a disability."