On Thursday, the Little Hoover Commission will hold a hearing in the Capitol Building, setting its sights on trying to fix the state’s Denti-Cal program.
It could be a big task.
The California State Auditor issued a 71-page report in December outlining the challenges and deficiencies of the program. It has been a hot topic in the Legislature, particularly in recent budget negotiations. The state raised some Denti-Cal provider rates in the most recent budget.
According to Carole D’Elia, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission, Thursday’s hearing will look in part at possible solutions beyond increasing the rate structure.
“There are lots more options than that,” D’Elia said, “other attractive possibilities rather than just paying more.”
Jim Wasserman, deputy executive director at Little Hoover, said reimbursement hikes are possible but most likely just part of the answer.
“The Legislature may have focused a little more on reimbursement rates,” Wasserman said. “We may look at the idea of targeted reimbursements, or other ideas, like bringing dental clinics to the neighborhood.”
D’Elia said the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, is uniquely positioned to effect change.
“One of the things we do is shine a light on things. So we can put pressure on the administration, and we can make recommendations to move forward on some of the low-hanging fruit,” she said. “Sometimes it helps to get pressure from a different source.”
Even when there’s consensus among lawmakers, health officials and advocates that something needs to be done, she said, that doesn’t always result in actually achieving change. “Sometimes it’s important to cut through the things that get bogged down by stakeholders or administrators.” D’Elia said. “We come into this with our eyes open, and that can be a good thing. It’s good to have someone who can shine a spotlight on this but who doesn’t have an ax to grind.”
After Thursday’s hearing, the commission will hold a series of smaller meetings in coming weeks and months to hash out details of possible fixes.