Health care coalition, CDA file ballot measure to secure permanent new Medi-Cal funding

Proposal would protect health care funding, improve dental provider rates for the long term
September 14, 2023
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Oct. 19, 2023: Article updated to reflect the latest ballot measure language.

A coalition of health care organizations including CDA has filed a ballot measure for the November 2024 election to protect and expand funding for California’s Medi-Cal program. The measure would lock in new funding that would increase Medi-Cal dental reimbursement rates, student loan repayments, health care workforce development and other programs, improving access to care for generations to come.

The Coalition to Protect Access to Care, composed of physicians, dentists, community health centers, Planned Parenthood, emergency responders, health insurance plans and health care workers, will begin collecting signatures this fall to qualify for the November 2024 ballot.

Medi-Cal currently provides medical and dental benefit coverage to 15 million low-income Californians (1/3 of all residents and half of all children), making it the largest provider of health insurance in the state. The program continues to grow and, after decades of underfunding, is in critical need of long-term funding solutions. Passing a ballot measure will mitigate the unpredictability of the annual state budget process and the fluctuations that can result year to year.

The coalition’s proposal is built around a “managed care organization” tax on health insurance companies, a revenue source that California has used for years to maximize federal matching funds and draw down billions of extra dollars to support state programs like Medi-Cal. The measure would make the state’s recently renewed MCO tax permanent, dedicate the money for Medi-Cal and specific health programs (as opposed to the state’s general fund like previous MCO taxes), and add Medi-Cal dental reimbursement rates to the list of programs receiving funds starting in 2027.

Focusing on dental rate increases for restorative and specialty services for adults

The designated funds for Medi-Cal dental services will amount to a 10-15% increase in its total budget, similar to the funding initially allocated under the Proposition 56 tobacco tax, with the added bonus of not being a declining revenue source. The intent is to focus dental rate increases on restorative and specialty services for adults, complementing the increases made through Proposition 56 and the Dental Transformation Initiative several years ago, which primarily targeted prevention and children’s services.

“This is an important opportunity to strengthen the Medi-Cal program for the long term and ensure health care dollars stay in health care,” said John Blake, DDS, CDA president. “With 15 million Californians relying on Medi-Cal for their health coverage, we need it to be a functional program with stable funding. That’s what this initiative is about. Establishing an ongoing, sustainable funding source like this will help reassure dentists, especially younger dentists, about Medi-Cal’s longer-term viability.”

The measure’s other relevant provisions include new student loan repayment funds for dentists and physicians and funds to expand education and training to increase the number of health care workers. The coalition will also focus on additional key provisions, such as increased funding for mental health programs and for state production of prescription drugs like insulin at lower cost.

CDA will keep members updated on the measure’s progress and ways to help with the campaign.

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