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Assembly Hearing Explores Restoration of Targeted Medi-Cal Benefits

At least one Medi-Cal budget cut — dental services for pregnant women — will be restored in next year’s budget according to testimony yesterday before an Assembly subcommittee hearing exploring the possible restoration of some budget cuts to Medi-Cal services.

“Pregnant women will be included in partial restoration of adult dental benefit,” Department of Health Care Services Director Toby Douglas told the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.

At issue during yesterday’s hearing was the possibility of full restoration of adult dental services, along with the restoration of cuts to audiology, acupuncture, optician, speech therapy, chiropractic and podiatric services.

“The state has eliminated a number of optional Medi-Cal benefits,” said Ross Brown, a fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Restoring those benefits would cost about $77 million in general fund dollars, according to subcommittee analysis.

“They were eliminated for budgetary and not policy reasons,” Brown said. “In light of the state’s improving fiscal situation, it’s reasonable to make some targeted restoration of benefit cuts that were made in the past.”

Yang Lee, a finance budget analyst with the Department of Finance, said the state can’t afford it. 

“This funding is not in the governor’s budget so the finance department would have to oppose it,” Lee said.

Vanessa Cajina, legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said if the state chooses to restore only one of those benefits it should be dental services. She said that has made the single greatest impact on beneficiaries’ lives.

“We would ask the Legislature to consider full restoration of adult dental benefits,” Cajina said.

“We know it’s not in the governor’s budget,” said Assembly member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), who chaired yesterday’s hearing, “but it’s a priority of Assembly members.”

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Capitol Desk Medi-Cal