For Immediate Release
Date: Aug 12th, 2013
Contact: Dr. John Thompson
I have been dealing with a certain amount of remorse for having shared dismal economic data in my last commentary. Today I have a new perspective regarding what numbers really mean. White marble crosses in perfect rows on a perfect carpet of green extending as far as I can see, nine thousand of them, have extracted an emotional toll on me. I am writing this commentary as our driver-guide, Pierre, makes the three hour drive back to Paris and a return flight to the United States tomorrow. One cannot spend two days exploring the Normandy coast and the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach and remain unaffected.
Last week we had visited the American Cemetery at Luxembourg where five thousand young Americans, who sacrificed their futures in the Hürtgen Forest, at Malmedy and Bastogne, are interred. The sheer beauty of these perfectly manicured parks that have been carved out of European soil is in total contrast to the cataclysmic events that made these cemeteries a United States territory. We have had time to see families gathered at the cross of a loved one. We have seen families serve in the retreat of our flag as taps was sounded and we had time to walk these hallowed rows. Each cross, each Star of David represented someone's son, husband, brother or father.
There is a story for every one of these perfect markers. What is the story for two brothers buried side by side, killed one day apart? What is the story of the father and son that died June 6, 1944? Numbers on a cross tell only of life lost, but what was the story of those back home who received a personal letter of this loss? Just looking at numbers, dates, the question comes to my mind, what was the class of 1940 planning to do with their lives?
We have seen that the devastated cities, towns, villages and farms of Normandy have been restored as has all of Europe. This seems to be what Europe does after every war. It is now only these sacred grounds that remain to remind us of a generation of Americans that truly dealt with the inconvenient circumstances of a world war that they had to fight and win.
We live in a time that in the scope of history has spared us conflagration. The Cold War never became a war. The European Union has provided a stability and peace that had never existed beyond two generations. We have visited the castled river towns of Germany and each has its own story, the common denominator being war and destruction. The Hundred Year War, The Thirty Year War, or just a battle, but every town had risen from ashes on multiple occasions. The EU has provided a forum that has allowed twenty eight nations with so many unique languages to truly communicate. While Europeans seem to be very proud of their Union and their country, they truly sound like Americans when asked about politics..."Don't ask!"
Europe has a rich history of inconvenient circumstances that had driven our forefathers to leave Europe. They gave us what is now our United States and we have been determined to not make the mistakes we saw in Europe. The last three weeks have given us an appreciation of how the Europe we saw now respects its environment, manages its resources and in many ways, better defines the distinction between individual rights and the rights of society. There are, in fact, initiatives observed in Europe that would serve us well in the United States.
Rows of white crosses, a generation sacrificed, a terrible war won, Germany and Europe restored...I cannot be prouder than to say, I am an American, Ich bin ein Amerikaner or Je suis un Americain. We, our generations, have an obligation, not an entitlement, to subject ourselves to some degree of personal sacrifice for the greater good in spite of inconvenient circumstances.
Statistics, numbers on a spreadsheet, present our profession with an inconvenient circumstance. The numbers represent innocent children now enrolled and to be enrolled in Medicaid. The statistics tell us they are not being served now, and circumstances imposed by Medicaid Services indicate an intolerable situation in access to care is about to occur. As a profession we are going to either have the ability to bring a new generation of children a healthy smile and an appreciation of oral health for a life time or we are going be held culpable and have a public relations nightmare.
If we find a way to provide the former, we will create a generation of patients who will appreciate and seek care in their future. This solution would affect, positively, some of the dismal projections published in that last commentary. If access to care becomes the obstacle and we are not engaged, society will not likely favor our perspective. Others will provide oral health care and education. In late June, Governor Beshear asked me to meet with Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Haynes and Medicaid Commissioner Lawrence Kissner to discuss issues involving dentistry and the Medicaid expansion he had just announced.
Our meeting was cordial, candid and broad ranging. There are so many issues on which we found agreement and some on which we were speaking a different language. The bottom line is that we, as service providers, have complained about reimbursement for the entire forty years that I had practiced. We are all looking for the same outcomes with very limited resources. There is simply too much common ground to think that we cannot find solutions. These solutions will not please everyone and may require concepts that are not on the present radar, but must be conceived in a very brief time span. If we look at every number as a child, we will find the means. Our inconvenient circumstances today have no possible relevance to the inconvenience that a rapidly disappearing generation survived. We must forever remain in awe of this "greatest generation” and remember the qualities that have made our America.