California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Cuts to Medi-Cal Dental Program Could Lead to Delays in Seeking Care

Many low-income adults and seniors who rely on Medi-Cal for dental coverage might begin delaying care or seeking dental treatment at emergency departments after California ends coverage for Denti-Cal and other services on July 1, the Modesto Bee reports.

Denti-Cal is the dental benefit provided through Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.

The cuts are expected to save California $115 million annually by eliminating adult Medi-Cal coverage for:

  • Audiology;
  • Dental care;
  • Optometry;
  • Psychological care; and
  • Podiatry.

According to the California HealthCare Foundation, about 25% of Medi-Cal beneficiaries use Denti-Cal annually, with an average expenditure of $380 per patient.

CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline.

Delays in Seeking Care

Some care providers and advocacy groups have expressed concern that adults who lose Denti-Cal coverage will choose to delay care, which could lead to oral infections or other complications.

In addition, some patients might seek dental care at hospital emergency departments, which often are unequipped to provide dental services. Some tests also could cost considerably more at hospitals than at dentist offices.

Some low-income adults might seek dental services at health centers that offer a sliding-fee scale based on income.

The California Dental Association is lobbying Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to extend Medi-Cal's dental benefits or to allow coverage exceptions for severe conditions (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 5/29). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.