Denti-Cal Cuts Leading to Drop in Adult Visits for Preventive Services
Dental clinic visits in Riverside County are set to drop for the second year in a row, continuing a trend away from preventive care, according to officials from the Riverside County Department of Public Health, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
In 2008, Riverside County recorded nearly 2,000 dental clinic visits, a number that fell to 1,440 in 2009. The number is expected to drop again to slightly more than 1,000 visits this year, officials said.
Dental experts and other health officials attribute the decrease in dental visits to the economic downturn and patients' lack of dental insurance.
In 2009, a multibillion-dollar budget deficiency prompted California lawmakers to eliminate adult Denti-Cal benefits to reduce spending by nearly $109 million. Denti-Cal is the dental program through Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.
In Riverside and San Bernardino counties, more than 310,000 adults lost dental coverage following the Denti-Cal cuts.
Lack of Insurance
Even before the state cut off adult Denti-Cal benefits, many Californians did not have dental coverage.
A 2008 study by the California HealthCare Foundation found that about 40% of California adults lacked dental insurance. In addition, 60% of adult Medi-Cal beneficiaries did not realize they had dental coverage in 2008, according to the report. CHCF publishes California Healthline.
Trend Toward Emergency Care
Health officials said the Denti-Cal cuts and lack of dental insurance have prevented adults from visiting dental clinics for preventive checkups and cleaning.They cautioned that the trend has created a shift toward emergency care as more people delay seeking necessary dental treatment (Hines, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/7). 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.