Report calls for "reboot" of Denti-Cal

CDA is urging the state to take immediate steps to improve its Medi-Cal dental program, Denti-Cal, after the release of a highly critical report by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency. The report, Fixing Denti-Cal, ranks the Denti-Cal program among the state government's "greatest deficiencies," and calls for a complete reboot.

After a seven-month examination of the Denti-Cal program, the Little Hoover Commission, which is charged with recommending ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of state programs, has found that the system is "falling disastrously short in providing dental care to a third of California's population and half of its children."

CDA, which had an opportunity to provide input for the report during a hearing last October, applauds the commission for taking a detailed look at this failing system.

"We appreciate the work of the Little Hoover Commission in evaluating Denti-Cal, which is supposed to serve as a crucial safety net for our state's most vulnerable citizens," said CDA President Ken Wallis, DDS. "We have an opportunity to take action to fix these deficiencies that are, unfortunately, barriers to dental care."

The most recent report indicates that 13 million Californians are stuck in the underfunded Denti-Cal program, which has alienated the dental profession with reimbursement rates among the nation's lowest, an abundance of restrictive rules and reliance on outdated paper-based administrative processes. In its report, the Little Hoover Commission lays out six recommendations for fixing the program:

  • Set a target in which 66 percent of eligible children make annual dental visits
  • Cut red tape for dental providers
  • Create an evidence-based Denti-Cal advisory group
  • Expand teledentistry and mobile dental care
  • Reorient oral health care system for beneficiaries toward preventive care
  • Financial incentives for providing and boosting preventive care

CDA looks forward to continuing its work to improve the Denti-Cal program with the Department of Health Care Services and the state Legislature. Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) and Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) have both announced their intent to author legislation to implement specific recommendations and activities outlined in the Little Hoover Commission.

The full Little Hoover Commission report is available at lhc.ca.gov.

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The state Legislature and governor recently agreed to a deal, supported by CDA, that will preserve $1.3 billion in federal funding for Medi-Cal. The agreement reforms the state’s managed care organization (MCO) tax to comply with federal requirements that the tax apply to all managed care health plans, not just those that serve Medi-Cal patients, in order to preserve the federal matching money the tax brings to the state.

CDA participated in a special hearing recently to review the deficiencies of the state’s Denti-Cal program. An independent oversight committee held a meeting at the state Capitol to delve into the problems highlighted in a report that found that California’s 2014 reimbursement rates for the 25 most common Medicaid dental services were well below those in the comparable states of New York, Texas and Florida.