CDA urges response to governor's silence on Denti-Cal

CDA is disappointed that the May revision to the 2015-16 state budget released by Gov. Jerry Brown is silent on the statewide crisis in access to dental care and is urging the administration and Legislature to take action in their upcoming budget negotiations.

The revised budget proposal does not take any steps to address serious Denti-Cal program deficiencies that have been the subject of recent legislative hearings and a highly critical state audit that shows the program fails to provide adequate access to care for millions of low-income children. The audit found that 56 percent of children enrolled in Denti-Cal are not receiving any dental care.

“The governor’s revised budget is disappointing considering that the broken Denti-Cal program has undergone intense legislative scrutiny after the release of the state auditor’s report,” said CDA President Walt Weber, DDS. “The state is failing to keep its promise to patients who have Medi-Cal coverage but can’t get the dental care they need. Investing in Denti-Cal now will help these patients get preventive dental care, saving the state from the much greater long-term costs that come with chronic dental disease and emergency room visits.” 

CDA is advocating for immediate improvements to the Denti-Cal program, including stronger oversight by the Department of Health Care Services, accurate assessments of active providers and adequate funding for the program. Denti-Cal reimbursements for providers are among the lowest in the nation — only 35 percent of the national average for most services according to the audit California Department of Health Care Services: Weaknesses in Its Medi-Cal Dental Program Limit Children’s Access to Dental Care. Furthermore, a 10 percent cut in reimbursements took effect in 2013 and while most pediatric services were exempt from the cut, pediatric dental services were not.

“The state has a legal obligation to ensure that low-income Californians have adequate access to dental care,” said Weber. "The Denti-Cal system has especially suffered in recent years and the issues spelled out in the audit need to be addressed immediately. We urge the administration and Legislature to take action now to begin fixing the Denti-Cal program.”

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CDA's advocacy urging the state to fix the broken Denti-Cal program has captured the attention of lawmakers who expressed outrage in two legislative hearings about the program's failure to provide access to care due to glaring oversight issues and extremely low reimbursement rates. CDA members testified at two joint oversight hearings of the Senate Health Committee, Assembly Health Committee and the Joint Legislative Audit Committees in March.