California dentists who are willing to relocate, expand or establish a new practice to an area of highest patient need and commit to serving Medi-Cal beneficiaries for at least 10 years can apply in January 2020 to receive up to $300,000 in grant funding through the state’s CalHealthCares program to support related costs.
Marc Bernardo, DMD, MPH, and Michelle Galeon, DMD, are among the first recipients of a new grant funded by Proposition 56, a voter-approved tobacco tax that CDA and other health care organizations sponsored in 2016. The grant program awarded $10 million in debt relief to 38 dentists (up to $300,000 each) in exchange for the dentists maintaining a 30% or more Medi-Cal patient caseload for five years.
Catherine’s dental phobia was once so severe that dental advertisements or even passing a dental office could trigger a panic attack. Worse, her debilitating phobia kept her from seeing a dentist for over 10 years. Eventually, she developed a life-threatening oral infection and lived with it for over a year and a half. “I was in pain, but I was too scared to receive care,” said Catherine, a resident of Bakersfield, Calif.
The Department of Health Care Service’s new program designed to expand access to care for Medi-Cal patients has awarded $10.5 million to 40 dentists to pay student loan debt. Approximately 1,300 health care providers, including 350 dentists, applied to the CalHealthCares program, which offers up to $300,000 in debt relief in exchange for meeting certain criteria.
As part of the finalized 2019-20 California state budget, the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom approved a continuation of supplemental Medi-Cal provider rates, including significant dollars for dentists serving Medi-Cal patients. An additional $20 million was dedicated to dentists through a recently launched student loan repayment program.
The 2018-19 state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown dedicates $210 million from the Proposition 56 Tobacco Tax revenue to Denti-Cal providers, a $70 million increase from last year’s amount. This effort is the result of years of activity to improve the Medi-Cal dental program and increase access to oral health care for the state’s 13.5 million Medi-Cal enrollees.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, adults enrolled in the Denti-Cal program are eligible for an expanded set of dental benefits. The Department of Health Care Services on Nov. 9 issued a special provider bulletin to clarify the dental services that providers may render, bill and be reimbursed for by Denti-Cal in 2018, including scaling and root planing, partial dentures and posterior root canals.
More than 7 million adults enrolled in Denti-Cal, California’s Medicaid dental program, will have a fully restored package of dental benefits in 2018. The adult benefit package was drastically cut in 2009 due to the state budget crisis and was partially restored in May 2014. The restoration of the adult dental benefit services is a result of legislative action taken during the 2017-18 budget process.