The Washington Post is running an excellent video series called "The Healing Fields," about the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps in Wise County, Va.:
Hundreds of uninsured and underinsured Americans flock to Wise County, Va., every year to seek treatment at a makeshift field hospital operated by the Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps. For three days in this isolated corner of Appalachia, a small army of health-care professionals offers medical attention to patients who are not likely to see another doctor or dentist all year. The annual clinic saves lives and alleviates suffering, but in the face of a growing national health-care crisis, it may not be enough.
Be warned: The video features a kid with a mouthful of abcessed teeth and other horror stories.
Part of this crisis, as I argued in July, is the monopolistic licensing influence of the American Dental Association. The ADA has effectively discouraged lawmakers from licensing alternative dental practitioners in every state but Alaska, where the ADA lost its suit against the Alaskan Native Tribal Health Consortium. The consortium continues to send high school graduates to New Zealand for a two-year program in basic dental health care, which allows them to provide low-cost care in remote tribal areas of Alaska. Dental therapists, as well as denturists (who can legally practice in a handful of states, despite the ADA's smear campaign) could have a profound effect on health care in poverty-stricken areas, both rural and urban. Sadly, neither group can legally practice in areas like Appalachia, where they're needed most.
Why aren't politicians batting around the idea of comprehensive licensing reform, the quickest route to affordable health care? According to this excellent Cato paper, abandoning the medical rent-seeking model is "politically infeasible." The paper does, however, outline some intermediate steps towards reform, such as more skepticism on the part of state politicans in response to medical groups' requests for stricter legislation.