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State budget deal preserves Medi-Cal adult dental benefits, supplemental rate increases

CDA applauds governor, Legislature for funding critical health care programs amid COVID-19 pandemic

June 23, 2020 4952

The state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom reached an agreement yesterday on a balanced state budget for 2020-21 fiscal year that preserves critical safety net health care funding in the Medi-Cal dental (Denti-Cal) program.

Updated June 30

Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday signed a balanced state budget for 2020-21 fiscal year that preserves critical safety-net health care funding in the Medi-Cal dental (Denti-Cal) program. CDA advocated for the preservation of Medi-Cal funding for months, including through a grassroots campaign that yielded thousands of phone calls, emails and tweets from dentists to legislators and the governor.

The Legislature made it a priority to save services for the millions of low-income Californians who rely on Medi-Cal, including individuals who are newly unemployed and now eligible for coverage.

The agreement among key policymakers preserves adult dental benefits, Proposition 56 supplemental rate increases and the CalHealthCares program, which offers student loan repayments and practice relocation grants to dentists and physicians who commit to providing care for Medi-Cal patients. (Read "'Life-changing' grants awarded to 38 dentists committed to Medi-Cal.") 

The Proposition 56 supplemental rates amount to increases of about 40% for Medi-Cal provider rates, in some cases bringing the rates to 80% of the average commercial payment. The rates apply to hundreds of dental codes.

Rocky start for state budget

With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing significant harm to California’s economy, the governor in May laid out a budget proposal that slashed billions of dollars in spending to tackle a massive $54 billion deficit.

In an effort to balance this year’s state budget, the proposed cuts would have impacted every aspect of state government, from Medi-Cal and oral health to education and civil service. The governor’s proposal reduced Medi-Cal adult dental benefits and eliminated other recently restored benefits such as audiology, speech therapy, optician/optical lab, podiatry, acupuncture, optometry, nurse anesthetist services, occupational and physical therapy, pharmacist services, screening and diabetes prevention program services. 

CDA led grassroots advocacy campaign following May budget proposal

Those proposed cuts would have undone the significant improvements in the Medi-Cal Dental program that dentistry has fought for over the last several years. In response, CDA quickly organized grassroots and online advocacy to oppose the cuts, and nearly 1,300 people sent over 3,800 emails and tweets and made phone calls to Gov. Newsom and state legislators stressing the importance of oral health care and the need to protect Proposition 56 funds in the Medi-Cal program.

The Legislature in early June responded with an alternate proposal that would keep California’s commitment to the most vulnerable, underserved populations. “At a time when more Californians than ever will need the Medi-Cal program, the state cannot afford to undermine the health care safety net and decimate the dental provider network,” CDA stated. 

CDA applauds the Legislature and governor for agreeing on a budget that provides a reasonable approach to funding critical health care programs while also recognizing the severe fiscal crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget agreement announced June 22 and signed by the governor yesterday holds off devastating cuts in the Medi-Cal program, both to Proposition 56 funding and adult dental benefits. 

CDA will continue to work closely with the Legislature and administration as California’s economic picture becomes clearer. Because access to oral health care in California will be critical to the overall health of many millions of Californians, CDA will keep advocating for substantial federal relief as well as a continuation of Proposition 56 provider reimbursement rates to protect dental care in the state.