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Access To Care For Denti-Cal Patients Remains Challenging

A patient without medical insurance gets free dental services from volunteer ...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: A patient without medical insurance gets free dental services from volunteer dentists and dental technicians at the Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic inside the Los Angeles Sports Arena in Los Angeles on Tuesday, April 27, 2010.

In a hearing before the Little Hoover Commission in late March, state health officials said the number of dentists who treat Denti-Cal patients has declined by eight percent over the last five years.

That's no surprise, given the challenges California's low-income dental program has faced.

Dental benefits for adults were slashed in 2009 because of state budget problems. Those benefits were fully restored this year.

In 2017, the state increased reimbursements to dentists for fillings and other services by about 50 percent. Even so, the rates are still far below what commercial insurers pay.

The state has streamlined the process for dentists to enroll in Denti-Cal, and has earmarked money for outreach and marketing.

But even though nearly 14 million Californians have Denti-Cal coverage, access to care is not guaranteed.

The Department of Health Care Services said less than a quarter of adults on Medi-Cal saw a dentist within the last year. Only 44 percent of Denti-Cal patients under the age of 20 visited a dentist last year.

Despite recent improvements to the Denti-Cal program, the number of participating dentists has declined.

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