Report Finds Improved Access to Dental Care for Medi-Cal Kids
Dental managed care plans in Sacramento and Los Angeles have significantly improved access to dental care for low-income children enrolled in Medi-Cal, according to a report by the state Department of Health Care Services, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
DHCS filed the report with the state Legislature last week (Wiener, Sacramento Bee, 4/14).
In March 2012, Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) asked DHCS Director Toby Douglas to take immediate action to improve access to dental care for low-income children in Sacramento County following an article published in the Bee.
The article criticized the county's dental program for long wait times and low rates of dental care among beneficiaries.
In fiscal year 2010-2011, fewer than one-third of Sacramento children with Medi-Cal coverage visited a dentist, compared with a rate of nearly 50% statewide (California Healthline, 3/15/12).
Changes Detailed in DHCS Report
The DHCS report described actions taken by managed care plans and the state to improve access to dental services for low-income children, including:
- Calling and sending letters to Medi-Cal beneficiaries to inform them of their eligibility for dental health benefits;
- Establishing incentives and penalties for managed care plans to boost the number of children treated;
- Requiring improved reporting by managed care plans; and
- Requiring managed care plans to monitor individual providers and to undergo regular audits by outside agencies.
Improvements Detailed in Report
According to the report, such changes have helped boost rates of child Medi-Cal beneficiaries who receive dental health services.
It found that the rate of Sacramento children with Medi-Cal coverage who received treatment from a dentist increased from 32.3% in 2011 to 43.7% in 2012.
The report also found that the rate of Los Angeles children with Medi-Cal coverage who received treatment from a dentist increased from 24.6% in 2011 to 36.8% in 2012.
Debra Payne -- a health and dental program planner for First 5 Sacramento -- said dental care for Medi-Cal children is "going in the right direction but not nearly as fast as we'd like to see it."
Following the release of the report, a dental care access advisory committee that has been meeting regularly in Sacramento listed several concerns, including:
- Continued complaints from parents of children who are not receiving dental health services;
- Distrust of the quality of the report data, which was provided by managed care plans;
- A need for more independent monitoring; and
- Skepticism about whether the managed care plans can absorb thousands of children who will be shifted to Medi-Cal from Healthy Families -- California's Children's Health Insurance Program -- this spring.
Karen Ziebron -- a spokesperson for Steinberg -- said she is pleased by the actions taken by the managed care plans but still is concerned about the issues raised by the advisory committee.The article was produced by the California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting. The center is supported by a grant from CHCF, which publishes California Healthline (Sacramento Bee, 4/14). 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.