$30M annual boost to state oral health program

Five years after CDA developed a proposal to reduce barriers to dental care in California, several of the proposal’s objectives have come to pass. Most notably was the 2015 installation of Jayanth Kumar, DDS, MPH, as state dental director.

And now, thanks in part to the passage of Proposition 56, the tobacco tax measure supported by CDA and approved by voters last November, the state oral health plan that CDA and other stakeholders helped develop over the past year will receive a significant financial boost of $30 million annually. This is a tenfold funding increase and the first time the program has ever had a dedicated revenue source.

These funds will be used to implement the state oral health plan through various means, including expanding the state oral health program, supporting local oral health programs, strengthening oral health surveillance and evaluation capacity, launching communication and health literacy initiatives and providing training and technical assistance. Specifically, funding awards totaling $18 million of the $30 million will be allocated to local health departments or jurisdictions with funding for future years anticipated to be at the same level, according to Kumar.

In early August, award letters were sent to the jurisdictions detailing the allocations, which will include base amounts plus additional funds calculated based on the estimated low-income population numbers for each area. In turn, those funds will be used to meet local oral health objectives, such as assessing the needs of schoolchildren and vulnerable population groups, developing an action plan to address oral health needs of the community and providing qualified professional expertise in dental public health for program direction to implement community water fluoridation and community-clinical linkage programs. Addressing common risk factors for chronic tobacco- and sugar-related diseases and working with partners and community organizations to promote oral health are other important objectives of local health jurisdictions.

As previously reported in the Update, CDA and its partners advocated internally and externally to ensure that Proposition 56 tobacco tax revenues were used as voters intended them to be used — to improve access to care for the 14 million Californians enrolled in the Medi-Cal program. This advocacy resulted in the $30 million ongoing allocation to the state dental director’s office and an initial state allocation of $140 million for increased Denti-Cal provider rates.

Learn more about how Proposition 56 funds are being used to improve access to dental care in California.

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The Department of Health Care Services on June 30 announced hundreds of procedure codes will receive a 40 percent supplemental rate increase as the result of Proposition 56, the tobacco tax measure sponsored and supported by CDA and approved by voters last November. Over $1 billion of the tobacco tax revenue is allocated to improved payments to physicians and dentists who treat Medi-Cal patients.

Dentists in selected counties have an opportunity to participate in pilot projects that seek to improve the oral health of California children enrolled in Denti-Cal. In February 2017, the Department of Health Care Services announced the 15 selected proposals for Local Dental Pilot Project funding, with awards totaling $150 million over four years.