In the News – Denti-Cal & Kids

California can do better by poor kids’ teeth

THE SACRAMENTO BEE EDITORIAL – Few pains are more debilitating than toothaches. For kids, a rotten tooth can mean lost days in school.

So when a state audit in December chastised the California Department of Health Care Services for shortcomings that limited access to dentistry for children of low-income parents, legislators and policymakers rightly took notice.

Part of the problem is a lack of dentists in rural California who will treat patients through Medi-Cal. One reason is that reimbursement rates are simply too low.

Now that California is not in the throes of a budget crisis, there would be few places better to invest some of the state’s windfall than on the dental health of children, so long as it is a sustainable expenditure.

The state Senate is advocating that California target $30 million specifically to expand dentistry for poor people by raising state reimbursement rates for dentists, which were cut years ago.

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Led by Sanchez, Denham, Bipartisan Group of CA Members of Congress Urge Action on Denti-Cal by Gov. Brown, Legislative Leaders

THE CALIFORNIA MAJORITY REPORT – Led by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) and Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), 16 members of California’s delegation today urged Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s legislative leaders to “prioritize improvements to the Denti-Cal program in this year’s budget.”

“For Denti-Cal to be a meaningful benefit, enrollees must have access to care,” wrote the bipartisan group of Congressional representatives in a letter to Brown and the legislators. “We urge to you to prioritize improvements to the Denti-Cal program in this year’s budget.”

The Members of Congress said they have “grown concerned” about Denti-Cal, which is a state-federal partnership designed to provide dental care to 12 million low-income Californians, in the wake of the State Auditor’s report that cited major deficiencies in the state’s implementation of the program.

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Disparities Persist in Tooth Decay, Preventive care

CALIFORNIA HEALTH REPORT – Nearly a quarter of American children age 5 and under suffer from tooth decay, and minority children have untreated cavities at twice the rate of non-Hispanic white children, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study comes at a time when many states are ramping up efforts to combat tooth decay among youngsters.

“Dental decay is completely preventable,” says Shelly Gehshan, who heads up Pew Charitable Trusts’ Children’s Dental Campaign. She points to teeth cleaning, sealants, and fluoride treatments as tools that dentists and, increasingly, other health care providers are tapping to shield children against disease.

The data reveal that many of these efforts, however, still fall short as dental caries continue to pose a health challenge for children, particularly Hispanic and black kids, who are even harder hit than their white and Asian counterparts.

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Poor Kids Should Get Dental Care

THE SACRAMENTO BEE – By Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda.  As the father of three children and chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health, one of my top priorities is protecting the basic health needs of all California children, especially when it comes to dental care.

A state audit last December was alarming, revealing that nearly 56 percent of the 5.1 million children enrolled in Denti-Cal the prior year did not receive care. The audit also reported a severe lack of providers in many counties.

It’s unacceptable that poor children in California don’t have adequate access to dental care. We must immediately consider a wide range of potential solutions.

With my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly, I have been closely reviewing the audit recommendations to determine how to correct these problems going forward. In March, we held a joint oversight hearing and discussed a number of ways to improve the program.

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Efforts to improve Denti-Cal heat up

THE SACRAMENTO BEE – A California program that subsidizes the cost of dental services for millions of low-income children and adults has come under scrutiny in recent months for the relatively small number of people served. Critics say they hope the attention will finally drive positive changes in the program commonly known as Denti-Cal.

The most recent round of criticism was kicked off by a State Auditor’s report in December that took the program to task for treating less than half of the 5 million children signed up for low-income health services in California. Lawmakers echoed the critiques at a joint hearing of the Senate and Assembly health committees in March.

Earlier this month, two Democratic lawmakers – Assemblyman Jim Wood, a dentist; and Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician – asked the state’s Little Hoover Commission to review the Denti-Cal program, which is administered by the Department of Health Care Services and funded through Medi-Cal.

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Frustration Boils at Denti-Cal Hearing

CALIFORNIA HEALTHLINE – 

It's not Jennifer Kent's fault, but that didn't stop the seething criticism of legislators on Tuesday at a joint legislative oversight hearing in the Capitol Building.

Kent, appointed seven weeks ago as the new director of the Department of Health Care Services that oversees the Medi-Cal program, testified at Tuesday's oversight hearing of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the Senate and Assembly health committees.

At issue was a December 2014 state auditor's report that showed more than half the state's children in Denti-Cal were not getting regular dental care and that 32 of California's 58 counties may have a dental access problem because of a dearth of providers.

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Legislators Consider Denti-Cal Audit

CALIFORNIA HEALTH REPORT – California legislators will hold a hearing Tuesday on an audit that found that more than half of children enrolled in the state’s low-income health program didn’t see a dentist in 2013, the most recent year data was available.

State Auditor Elaine M. Howle’s report, released in December, found that fewer than 45 percent of kids with Denti-Cal saw a dentist in 2013. The state Department of Health Care Services has not complied with its plan to monitor access to dental services, the report states.

Access to dental care is important for children because untreated tooth decay can lead to unnecessary tooth loss, speech problems and nutritional deficiencies.

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California Lawmakers Chew On Dental Program’s Shortcomings

KPBS – State lawmakers will hold a hearing Tuesday on a recent audit that found serious flaws in California’s dental program for poor children.

Legislators will have a lot to chew on.

All of the 5.2 million children enrolled in Medi-Cal are entitled to dental care. But the audit revealed more than half of those kids didn’t see a dentist in 2013.

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Overdue for Checkups: Denti-Cal program for low-income kids

LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL – Fewer than half the low-income kids enrolled in California's dental insurance program see a dentist in any given year. That seems like a problem. Whether it is, though, is impossible to tell because of the state's inadequate oversight of the program, known as Denti-Cal. According to a recent audit, the state doesn't collect the data necessary to determine whether the kids who need care can get it. The state should start measuring the performance of Denti-Cal as if it really cares how well it's working.

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New Proof on Why We Need to Fix Medi-Cal Dental Coverage Now

THE CHILDREN'S PARTNERSHIP – A newly released California state audit confirmed what The Children's Partnership already suspected: California’s Medi-Cal program is failing to meet the dental care needs of the state’s most vulnerable children. In fact, Medi-Cal is providing dental care to fewer than half of all children enrolled in the program.

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