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Proposed state budget continues improvements to Medi-Cal Dental, preventive care

January 15, 2020 7885

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget continues the commitment to increasing access to dental services and improving the health of vulnerable Californians. State investments in Medi-Cal over recent years have made it a more sustainable program for dentists and resulted in increased utilization of dental services. Over 1,000 dental providers throughout the state have newly enrolled to treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries, reversing a decade-long downward trend and opening access to hundreds of thousands Californians.

Released in January, the proposed state budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year would be the largest state budget in history at $222.2 billion in total funding. The budget projects a $5.6 billion surplus, is 2.3% larger than last year's budget and adds to California's rainy-day fund — the largest budget reserve in history. While health care is a priority in the proposal, the budget also focuses on ongoing issues like the housing crisis, homelessness, climate change and wildfires.   

Proposal highlights for the oral health community:

  • Extends until June 2023 the increased Medi-Cal dental provider rates funded by the CDA-sponsored Proposition 56 tobacco tax.
  • Provides $225 million annually, through the Medi-Cal Healthier California for All initiative (formerly “Cal-AIM”), to continue and expand the most successful elements of the current Dental Transformation Initiative that will be ending in December. Incentive payments for preventive services and patient recall would continue, and a newly added benefit for caries risk assessment for children ages 0-6 and silver diamine fluoride for certain vulnerable populations.
  • Ends in January 2021 the failing dental managed care pilot projects currently operating in Sacramento and Los Angeles counties. Initiated as a two-county pilot in 1994, dental managed care has faced criticism and concern for more than a decade. Despite significant investment in dental managed care, and the Medi-Cal Dental Program more generally, utilization in DMC continues to lag behind the rest of the state.
  • Addresses the youth vaping epidemic by creating a new tax on of $2 for every 40 mg of nicotine in a vaping products. The tax applies to all e-cigarettes.

The budget proposal additionally:

  • Creates a new Office of Healthcare Affordability “charged with increasing price and quality transparency” by developing specific strategies and cost targets for the different health care industry sectors, as well as financial consequences for failure to meet those targets.
  • Includes three proposals to reduce prescription drug costs for taxpayers, employers and consumers.
  • Expands Medi-Cal coverage to income eligible undocumented seniors age 65 and older and undocumented young adults up to age 26.

CDA applauds the governor’s proposed budget for its continued commitment to rebuilding and improving the state’s Medi-Cal Dental Program and the oral health of Californians. The proposed budget expands access to care and improves the oral health of the nearly 13 million Californians served by that important public health program.

The January proposal is the first volley in negotiations between the Legislature and governor before the budget is approved. CDA will advocate for oral health through budget discussions this spring. The budget must be passed and signed into law by the start of the state fiscal year in July.

Watch for budget-related updates in the newsroom at and in the Update.

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