Lack of Dental Benefits Creating Challenges for California Residents
Millions of California adults lack dental insurance because of job losses or insufficient access to dental benefits, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Last July, lawmakers eliminated adult Denti-Cal services in an effort to reduce state spending by $115 million. Denti-Cal is California's dental program through Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program.
According to Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, around 16 million California adults lack dental insurance (Kawahara, Sacramento Bee, 6/19).
Although the state still covers dental benefits for children, the majority of California dentists have stopped accepting Denti-Cal because of its low reimbursement rate (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 6/19).
Denti-Cal Practices Swamped
Since many California dentists do not accept Denti-Cal beneficiaries, those who do often find their offices overwhelmed by patients (Sacramento Bee, 6/19).
In Ventura County, five dental centers operated by Clinicas del Camino Real have been flooded by residents seeking emergency care. The centers are in such high-demand that people often must wait three or four months for routine appointments.
Meanwhile, a no-cost clinic's dental office in Simi Valley has a waiting list of more than 700 patients (Ventura County Star, 6/19).
Risk of Health Complications
Health experts warn that going without dental coverage could lead to a decline in overall health. According to CDC, several studies have found links between oral infections and ailments such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Paul Glassman -- director of community programs at University of the Pacific's School of Dentistry -- notes that adults' inability to pay for dental care can lead to a need for more expensive emergency treatment.
Marty Keale, executive director of the Capitol Community Health Network, said Denti-Cal still covers services for adults with "emergency cases," which the state defines as extractions.
Reform Law Could Offer Limited Relief
The federal health reform law mandates dental coverage only for residents up to age 21.However, the law does provide subsidies to help adults obtain overall health care coverage. Such subsidies indirectly could help Californians pay for dental treatment by lessening the financial burden of medical care (Sacramento Bee, 6/19). 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.